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The Best Novels About Prep School

Updated April 23, 2019 689 votes 79 voters 6.3k views32 items

List RulesWhat are the best fiction books about or set in boarding schools?

List of the Best Novels About Prep School. Nothing quite captures the zeitgeist like privileged teen angst, as displayed in the best novels about prep school. From The Catcher in the Rye’s Holden Caulfield to Hogwarts’ Harry Potter, the best boarding school fiction isn’t just the stuff of dark hallways and confused sexuality; it’s the stuff of legend.

English professors might scoff at a few of these selections. However, this list of the best novels about prep school is comprised of volumes that have consistently gained the reader stamp of approval, whether over several decades (Muriel Spark’s The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie), or spanning centuries (Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol).

The best novels about prep school share a few common themes: a general search for meaning, good versus evil, suicide and suicidal thoughts, lost love, unrequited love, and waning youth. The protagonists from these academies might be students (Gene Forrester, in John Knowles’ A Separate Peace) or teachers (Mr. Chipping, in James Hilton’s Goodbye, Mr. Chips), but often their struggles mirror each other.

While the best boarding school books primarily feature characters from advantaged backgrounds, the painful, isolating, thrilling and confounding experiences of adolescence resonate across generations, socioeconomic status, gender identities -- muggle or magical-born. That’s why this definitive list of the best novels about prep school speaks to so many readers.
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