If you’re a student, chances are you’ve already begun your classes or if not, you will be soon. It’s that time of year again – new textbooks, new teachers and professors, and a mountain of assignments. Regardless of whether or not you like school, the first few days and weeks of classes can be overwhelming at times. For a lot of us, it’s hard to find time to breathe, let alone sit down and read a book for fun.
Personally, when I do find those moments of freedom, it’s hard to decide what to do with them. Even if I want to read, then I have to pick what book to read, and sometimes I can’t find the right book… it’s frustrating.
To save you the time and trouble of looking for the “right book” to read in your snippets of free time, I’ve compiled a short list of good “back to school” books. Now let’s be clear, there are a lot of Young Adult books that have schools in them. In these books, however, the school environment plays an important role. Whether they’re a college student or just starting fifth grade, perhaps you’ll be able to relate to these characters and their stories.
Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell
Navigating your first year of college is challenging for everyone, including Cath Avery. As someone who much prefers the company of her favorite books and fanfiction writing, attending a large university and trying to locate the campus dining hall is a bit overwhelming. Not to mention tough professors, finding new friends, and just having to grow up.
Of course, not all of us cope with college by writing fanfiction – some of us play sports, others enjoy music, or just any other activity. Even if you don’t consider yourself a “fangirl/guy,” there’s plenty to relate to in Cath’s story. Don’t worry, you’re not alone in your struggles.
Wonder by R.J. Palacio
On the other end of the age range we have Wonder, which tells the story of Auggie Pullman and his fifth grade year in school. A medical condition has left his face disfigured, and because of that, he’s been homeschooled up until this point. Transitioning from one form of schooling to another can be challenging enough, but it becomes even harder for Auggie due to his appearance. Throughout the book, Auggie goes through many highs and lows – making friends, dealing with bullies, meeting kind teachers, and strained relationships with his older sister.
Wonder is the kind of book that will make you cry. Not in a bad way – though there are some heartbreaking moments – but because it has such a positive message. At the risk of sounding cliché, the best way I can describe it is “wholesome.” Yes, there are sad parts, but you go through them. It’s a lovely story that, even if you’re in high school or even college, will leave you smiling by the end.
Eliza and Her Monsters by Francesca Zappia
Another “fandom” story, this book revolves around Eliza Mirk, though she’s more well-known as “LadyConstellation” online. Under her alias, Eliza publishes Monstrous Sea, an incredibly popular webcomic. Offline, however, she’s just trying to survive her final year of high school and get on with her life. The year has different plans, however, and Eliza meets Wallace, who turns out to be one of the most famous Monstrous Sea fanfiction writer. Eliza and Wallace form a connection – though she still keeps her online identity a secret – and slowly, she starts to come out of her shell more.
While most of this story focuses on Eliza and her webcomic, her time in school also plays an important role. While I think this book is fantastic for anyone, I think it’s especially dear to those of us who might be considered “outcasts.” You might not be an internet-famous comic creator (unless there’s something you’re not telling me), but there’s still a lot to Eliza’s story that I think we can relate to.
Princess Academy by Shannon Hale
Fantasy worlds have schools too! In the world of Princess Academy, Mount Eskel is a place that is generally cut off from the rest of the land. Miri, a fourteen-year-old girl makes her home here, and enjoys a quiet life with her father and sister. When a messenger from the capital comes to announce that the next princess will be chosen from their town, a “princess academy” is established. All of the girls are required to attend in order to prepare for the prince’s visit, when he will ultimately choose one of them to be his bride.
While this might not be the same type of school we’re used to, there’s still a lot to love about the story. Miri and the other girls show themselves to be smart and capable by using their newly-learned skills to solve problems together. Most of us probably aren’t preparing for a visit from royalty anytime soon, but there is something encouraging about seeing how these girls overcome their challenges. Sometimes, that’s all we need to be able overcome our own.