It’s the end of summer, which means falling leaves, knee-high boots, and pumpkin-spice everything are just around the corner. It also means (gulp!) it’s back-to-school time. While there are plenty of books that take place on the first day of school, and plenty that take place in college (thanks to New Adult), there are precious few that combine the voice of the YAs we still feel we are in those first few post-high school months, with the collegiate setting that says, “Okay, go be adults now.” Here are five of the best:
Roomies, by Sara Zarr and Tara Altebrando
This co-authored contemporary isn’t actually set in college, but rather over the summer leading up to it. However, it does encapsulate a quintessential part of the college experience—the process of getting to know the stranger with whom you’ll be sharing your new cell…er, dorm room. Probably one of the most nerveracking parts of the process, this is the place to start if you’re looking for a YA How To Do the College Thing reading list.
Love Story, by Jennifer Echols
Erin and Hunter are new freshmen with an old shared past—one that unfolds throughout the book as their writing assignments turn into passive-aggressive jabs at each other and the secrets they keep. Echols is nothing if not a master of YA swoon (you may as well add Going Too Far to your cart; you won’t be sorry), and the romance is among her steamy best, but, for this creative writing minor, it’s the painfully accurate depiction of the critique circles that make this one of my college-set faves.
A Little Something Different, by Sandy Hall
I was already intrigued by this book for being the first to be released from Macmillan’s new crowdsourcing imprint, Swoon Reads, and hearing that it has fourteen different points of view. Then an employee at Barnes & Noble said the Magic Buzz Sentences to me when I was book shopping there: “It’s set in college,” and “It has some LGBT characters.” Fastest I have ever grabbed a book off a shelf. As in the above-mentioned Love Story, the characters are thrown together via freshman creative writing, but this sounds like a sweeter, lighter ride I can’t wait to crack open.
Fangirl, by Rainbow Rowell
Rowell’s second book might be best known for its homage to fandom, but there’s plenty to be gleaned about the college freshman experience. From being ditched by the twin she assumed would be her support system to worrying about the father they left alone at home, this nails the part of starting college that makes us feel like little kids at heart—not just parties and hooking up, but the very basic struggle to find an identity in your comfort zone.
The Ivy, by Lauren Kunze and Rina Onur
This series has been on my to-read list forever. Fun times on campus? Check. Boy drama? Check. Reviewer comparisons made to two of my favorite dramedy series, Gossip Girl and The A-List? Checkity check check check.
Psych Major Syndrome, by Alicia Thompson
Leigh is neurotic, analytical, curious, nervous…basically everything that makes for a perfect psych major. She’s also got a (seriously terrible) high school sweetheart who’s only further confusing her about sex, and she hasn’t exactly lucked into the best study group. Fortunately, she also has a pretty great roommate, a hilarious sense of humor, an eye-opening mentoring project (which Thompson manages not to make remotely cheesy), and…Nathan. Heyyyy, Nathan. Call me.
What is your favorite YA set in college?