Books About Boarding School

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Pranks on teachers and fellow students, bullying, sharing in each other’s joys and losses, forming lifelong friendships, facing up to intimidating seniors and a perennial slumber party—a boarding school is all these experiences and more. Far away from home, surrounded by peers and going through the trials and tribulations of adolescence, some children thrive and some struggle but all of them are changed by their experiences.

  1. Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger: This was a controversial book when it was first published and debate over its suitability for young readers continues. The main character and narrator, Holden Caulfied, leaves his prep school and while wandering New York City for three days gives the reader a little peek into his unique (sometimes bleak) outlook on life and the world.
  2. Mallory Towers series by Enid Blyton: This series of six books follow the protagonist, Darrell Rivers, and a host of other characters at her boarding school. Throughout the series, Blyton covers both serious and light-hearted topics such as bullying, sibling rivalry, friendships and pranks.
  3. Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguru: This poignant book is in the form of reminiscences of the 31-year old narrator as she remembers her time at a special school in the English countryside. As the book continues, the narrative reveals the darker purposes of the school in question.
  4. Prep: A Novel by Curtis Sittenfield: This is a coming-of-age story of an intelligent and observant 14-year old girl named Lee Fiora. New to a boarding school, she struggles to navigate issues of race, class and gender as well as her own adolescent angst.
  5. Goodbye, Mr. Chips by James Hilton: Arthur Chipping has been a teacher at an English boarding school all his life. The book starts with him as a young and ambitious man and ends when he retires and is considered one of best teachers in the school.
  6. Black Boy White School by Brian F. Walker: Anthony “Ant” Jones comes from a rough black neighbourhood until he gets a scholarship to an elite prep school in Maine. Finding himself to be part of the minority, he struggles to fit in while maintaining his own identity.
  7. Looking for Alaska by John Green: Miles Halter decides to leave behind his dull life and starts attending a boarding school where he meets two people who change his life. He falls in love with a beautiful and emotionally troubled girl named Alaska and forms a friendship with Chip Martin, his roommate. Together, they go through the vicissitudes of life and learn that actions have consequences.
  8. Spud by John van de Ruit: This hilarious novel is set in a South African boarding school attended by the 13-year old central character, John “Spud” Milton. The book follows his antics along with his friends, a group named “The Crazy Eight”, as they flout school rules, deal with their raging hormones and interact with their fellow classmates and teachers. Apart from being an amusing read, it also gives an insightful look into post-Apartheid South Africa.
  9. Old School by Tobias Wolff: The deepest desire of the unnamed narrator of this book is to become a writer. Considered an outsider at his elite boarding school, he competes in a literary competition along with several boys obsessed with literature. The most remarkable thing about this book is the satirical appearances made by authors like Hemingway, Ayn Rand and Robert Frost.
  10. Harry Potter by J.K. Rowling: Children of this generation have grown up holding out hope for the Hogwarts letter that will whisk them away to the magical world that Harry Potter inhabits. These wildly successful and imaginative books take place in a boarding school for magic set in world dominated by the fight against evil.

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