School Daze: Fiction Picks
Whether you've headed back to school this week, or are blissfully detached from the back-to-school scramble, there's always space for a good book about student life. Check out some of these titles I picked up recently.
Fall is set mostly at a prestigious Canadian boarding school, and it serves as a quiet backdrop to the relationship between three pivotal characters: Noel, the quiet loner; Julius, the athletic golden-boy, and Julius' girlfriend, the beautiful Fallon (or Fall, for whom the novel is named). Suspense grows as the relationships, particularly between Noel and Julius, grow in strange and complicated ways. When Fall mysteriously disappears one day, we're left wondering just who is behind it all. This is both a sharply-plotted mystery and a well-written character study for the most part: Julius and Noel have distinct voices, while Fall is talked about more than anything else. This isn't a particularly fast read, but it's well-paced so you won't get bored.
When identical twin sisters, Juno and Juliet leave together for their first year at an Irish university, they're looking forward to exploring everything their time away can offer them. Naturally, this includes a lot more than books and class notes...
The story's narrator, Juliet, is convinced her sister is the more gorgeous and charming of the duo, and when boys begin to drop at Juno's feet, Juliet assures us it's not a surprise. Written in a conversational and lighthearted tone, Juliet shares her insights into post-secondary life ("I was disappointed by the university, and vice versa"), there is still room for some deeper understanding of life beyond highschool in this fun and fast read.
John Green's Looking for Alaska is a modern-day classic - so if you haven't read it yet, you should.
When Miles heads from Florida to an Alabama boarding school to finish off his highschool career, he is in search of a "great perhaps". And find it he does: it appears in the form of Chip ("The Captain") his rough-around-the-edges roomate, and his best friend, the lovely, literate and slightly self-destructive Alaska Young. Miles (teasingly nicknamed Pudge for his thin physique)sets off on a whirlwind first year with school pranks, growing romantic entanglements, and finally, a sobering look at life and death.
Although this is a young adult book (and a multiple prize-winning one at that), I've had both teens and adults tell me how much they enjoyed this. Green writes smart and he never dumbs down his characters. The teens in the story are confused, persistent, lonely and brave - and all the emotions are rendered realistically and often, in memorable prose: after an encounter with Alaska, Pudge reflects while "collapsed on the bottom bunk, thinking that if people were rain, I was drizzle and she was a hurricane.”
Have some other titles you'd recommend? Let us know in the comments!