Cara Bertrand: TOP 10 Boarding School Books/Series

CB- 1;c Tangled ThoughtsHigh school graduation is a time for goodbyes, new beginnings, and if you’re Lainey Young, narrowly escaping with your life.

Forced to leave behind both Northbrook Academy and Carter Penrose, Lainey believes she’s earned her freedom- from the eyes of the Perceptum and Daniel Astor’s schemes. Meeting handsome and very persistent Teaching Assistant Jack Kensington the first week of college complicates everything, including her feelings.

College and flirtatious with Jack help Lainey put all things Sententia behind her. But when her aunt arrives for a visit, with an unexpected guest and even more unexpected news, Lainey’s tenuous control over her life snaps. Once again, she’s linked to everything she thought she left behind. And this time, there’s no escape.

Growing up, Carter Penrose thought he knew a thing or two about heartbreak- namely that it sucks -but he never knew exactly how much until losing Lainey. His life moves in a totally unplanned direction and he finds himself with a new home, new job, and even a surprising new girlfriend, all thanks to Daniel Astor. But just when Carter feels settled in the DC world of politics, a visit home to Northbrook brings up unexpected questions– about what happened at graduation and everything he believed about his Uncle Dan.

When tragedy brings Lainey and Carter face to face for the first time since summer, their lives have never felt more separated. Lies drove them apart.

Will the truth bring them together?


By Cara Bertrand

Not even remotely secret confession: I love boarding school stories. LOVE them. The are ‘my’ trope, that thing I will read over and over again without an ounce of ennui. So writing a boarding school story was an easy choice, even for this public-school girl.

The Sententia school, Northbrook Academy, is actually inspired by a real boarding school location in Western Massachusetts, though the campus is now closed. My husband and I would pass it periodically, on our way to a local race track, and it was always my favorite part of the drive. Even closed up, the sprawling grounds with the mix of old and new buildings were beautiful, and I loved to imagine them filled back up with life, and students, and drama. In fact, I told my husband once, “If I ever write a book, I’m going to set it here.” –long before I thought I actually would write a book. Several years later, I kept my word!

Even though Lainey’s moved onto college in Tangled Thoughts, I loved writing Northbrook- I think of it as another character in the story, in fact -and it makes an appearance in every book (including the last one!). Here are ten more of my favorite YA(ish) boarding school books/series!

  1. Vampire AcademyRichelle Mead: #1 on the list because it’s #1 in my heart! I love this series so very much. I got to meet Richelle earlier this year and I could barely stammer out a few sentences.
  2. Prep Curtis Sittenfeld: Arguably YA (in fact, I’d usually argue it’s not), but definitely a modern classic boarding school story and one of my favorites! Lee may not always be loveable, but she is so relatable.
  3. White Cat (The Curse Workers) – Holly Black: Nothing but love for Cassel, his crooked family, and the magical world they inhabit. I think this is Holly’s most under-read series. Everything she writes is so great- I mean, if she published her grocery lists, I’d probably read them! -but this one gets far less attention than it deserves in comparison to her more popular fae books. I inhaled the entire series in about three days.
  4. Grave Mercy (His Fair Assassin) – Robin LaFevers: This series hooked me at god of Death and kept me turning the pages as fast as I could from the start. Set in the earliest form of boarding school for girls – a convent.
  5. Among OthersJo Walton: Another arguably YA, but a perfect story for anyone who can identify with the awkward years of youth and who loves books and magic.
  6. The Name of the Star (Shades of London) – Maureen Johnson: So much personality in anything Maureen writes. London, the Jack the Ripper mystery, and all the ghosts felt completely alive to me. I devoured the series-to-date and am desperate for the conclusion!
  7. Hex HallRachel Hawkins: Sooooo much voice, and magic, and sassiness. This is my go-to choice for If-You-Liked-This-Book comparison. If you liked Hex Hall, you’ll probably like Lost in Thought!
  8. Blythewood Carol Goodman: Historical magical boarding school with a penchant for collective nouns? Yes, please!
  9. Conversion Katherine Howe: Great writing and integration of the historical and modern story. I enjoyed this very much, even without having read The Crucible.
  10. The Burning Sky (The Elemental Trilogy) – Sherry Thomas: Magical boarding school, amazing writing AND a tortured hero? This series is like my own personal brand of heroin. 🙂
  11. … but where’s Harry Potter, or Percy Jackson, or The Mysterious Benedict Society?!?!?! While I love those boarding school/camp series, too, they’re mostly Middle Grade, and that’s a different list!

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