Girls at Boarding School

Three books.

As Chimney Sweepers Come to Dust, the latest Flavia de Luce novel from Alan Bradley.  I’ve missed a few things in not reading all of this series — I read the first 2-3 and then skipped some until this book.  But this one’s a hoot.  Flavia, now 12, unwillingly gets sent to boarding school where she discovers secrets, mystery, and a corpse in her chimney.

The School For Dangerous Girls by Eliot Schrefer.  It’s been a long while since I read this, but I still remember some scenes.  I don’t remember that much about it, but I remember liking it, and I think people should read it and find out whether they like it too.

The Secrets of Drearcliff Grange School by Kim Newman (argh, why are all these books by men?  Fail.).  This is a book that #2 should read!  On the first page of the book, Amy is unceremoniously packed off to boarding school when her mother finds her sleeping on the ceiling.  At school she meets many girls who are friends, enemies, acquaintances, co-conspirators, classmates, etc., as well as teachers with secrets.  Magic and saving the world from creepy danger.  I would read a sequel.

I know that “girls at boarding school” used to be a genre in, say, the 1940s and beforeDoes anyone have any good suggestions for recent books?

#2 has loved this genre forever.  She liked the worst witch series and carol beech york’s extended Miss Know it All/ good day mice series (Good Charlotte is a great one).  These series are both full of slim volumes with higher reading levels than such skinny books usually have.  She wishes that Diana Wynne Jones had written a book with Millie as the main character during her boarding school days instead of her just showing up as a supporting character in the chrestomanci series (we meet her in the Lives of Christopher Chant, but don’t see her again until she’s an adult).  Oh man, I loved boarding school stories so much, and it turns out I also loved boarding school!  These aren’t recent books, but the 70s/80s had a little middle-grade reader renaissance of boarding school for girls books.

Oh, and recently: GUNNERKRIGG COURT.  DC1 is also enjoying some fairy tale boarding school stories… um… what were they… Flunked was one.  The school for good and evil is another.  These tend to be coed but female protagonists.  (Just like Hermione should have been…)  Gotham Academy is also a good coed boarding school adventure.  (And if you want an all-girls summer camp, LumberJanes really is about “friendship to the max”.)  And I’m sure there’s more I’m not thinking of right now.  Maureen Johnson also has a series of boarding school murders, but it’s more of a library check-out rather than a purchase.


25 Responses to “Girls at Boarding School”

  1. Zenmoo Says:

    I adored this genre when I was younger (possibly because I was potentially going to go to a boarding school & also because I didn’t go in the end) my favourite series was The Chalet School.

    • Anu Says:

      Ooh I loved the Chalet School too. They were a lot easier to find in India than they are in the US, but occasionally I buy a few used for nostalgia’s sake. I have a small collection now.

  2. Anonymath Says:

    The Finishing School series by Gail Carriger was rather good so far, a YA series. First book of the series was published in 2013, Etiquette & Espionage. There’s two adult series by the same author set in the same world as well, although I liked the YA series more.

  3. chacha1 Says:

    The only one that comes to mind is “The Wolves of Willoughby Chase” by Joan Aiken. It’s not a straight-up boarding school though … something much more sinister … mwa-ha-ha!

  4. seattlegirluw Says:

    I don’t think I’ve ever heard of the boarding school genre. They probably would’ve appealed to me greatly since we’re drawn to what we don’t know. I loved the Boxcar Children as a kid probably because I’d never had to fight for food or really take care of myself.

    Hope you find something suitable!

  5. Sabra Says:

    One from the 40s that I recently read and enjoyed is Madeleine L’Engle’s And Both Were Young.

    • Katherine Says:

      I LOVE this book. I’ve lost track of how many times I’ve re-read it.

      I also really enjoyed a College of Magics, which other people have mentioned. I didn’t know it had a sequel-I’ll look it up at the library.

      I recently read Lexicon (by max Barry) after Ana raved about it on her blog, and I couldn’t put it down. It’ s sort of about boarding school.

  6. Jenny F. Scientist Says:

    I was just reading an excerpt from Every Heart a Doorway, which is about a VERY strange boarding school. Bonus: written by a woman.

  7. ivy Says:

    I would love to know if the chemistry in the Flavia de Luce series stands up to scrutiny.

    I think my MIL would enjoy them if it is. She’s a retired chemistry teacher – if it’s not it’ll drive her to distraction!

    • Jenny F. Scientist Says:

      I haven’t read any recently but my memory of the ones I read was that it was at least plausible, if sometimes unlikely (largely because anyone who’s ever taught intro lab to college students knows they’re hopelessly terrible at everything- could a child really do those things? But, fiction.). And I have thrown bad science books (of fiction) across the room.

  8. sophylou Says:

    Do you know the College of Magics books? There’s also a sequel, written later (which I didn’t like as much as the first one).

    Not exactly a YA title, but there’s also Curtis Sittenfeld’s Prep

    And not quite a boarding-school story (since it’s set at a fictional college, which happens to be a fictionalized version of my undergraduate school — the campus is practically a character, which is why I think of it as a “school” story): Tam Lin

  9. eemusings Says:

    Man I loved this genre! Chalet School anyone???

  10. nicoleandmaggie Says:

    My partner has a suggestion:
    You might consider adding recent video game Life is Strange to your list of ‘girls in boarding school with magical powers’ stories. I liked it a lot, anyway.

  11. nicoleandmaggie Says:

    Also, there’s a whole other genre of girls in religious or mystical schools/convents. Some of the best are The Tombs of Atuan, Libyrinth, and LIRAEL: Daughter of the Clayr. Cheeseball comfort reads are Dragonsinger, Arrows of the Queen and the slightly better The Wizard of London.

  12. Debbie M Says:

    Ooh, another big list of books to check out.

    The Mysterious Benedict Society is modern and involves a co-ed boarding school. The main characters are two boys and two girls, but the point-of-view character is a boy and the one who doesn’t talk much and is inscrutable is a girl. There are three books in the series and a prequel. Loved #1 and the prequel, but only #1 is in a boarding school and the prequel is pretty boy-centric.

  13. Debbie M Says:

    Also, I have to add that male authors are not a fail if the female characters are well-done. In fact, just the opposite. Though, yes, it is nice to have our spending money support female authors as well.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      #2 agrees with you :) Though there are plenty of female authors who write about boarding schools as well– I think the problem was more that in any list there should be female authors (by random chance if nothing else), not that there shouldn’t be male authors too.

  14. nicoleandmaggie Says:

    Also enjoying The Ever After series.

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