5 Boarding School–Set Thrillers We Love

For those of us who never attended one, boarding schools can seem impossibly glamorous and upscale, bringing to mind images of crisp uniforms, fresh green grass, and ancient libraries. So the buzz for Dana Mele’s debut, People Like Us, definitely has me intrigued—not only for the setting, but for the promise of twisted female relationships and a taut thriller. The novel is the latest in a long, delightful tradition of boarding-school thrillers, each more twisted than the last—and here are five you’ll love.

People Like Us, by Dana Mele
Come for the early comparisons to Mean Girls and Pretty Little Liars , stay for Mele’s twisted world. Kay Donovan is flawless. Sure, she has a few dark secrets, but she can forget about those—because now she’s a star soccer player, with a tight group of friends beside her who help rule her private school. But those secrets come back to the surface when she and her friends are the first to find a fellow student’s body in the lake. The dead girl left Kay with a scavenger hunt, one that becomes more twisted as it unravels until Kay herself is a suspect in the girl’s murder. But she has always been good at keeping secrets, and knows the truth is just something you tell yourself over and over until it becomes real.

S.T.A.G.S., by M.A. Bennett
Greer MacDonald struggles to fit in at her elite boarding school, St. Aidan the Great, known to students simply as S.T.A.G.S. So when she receives an invitation from none other than Henry de Warlencourt, the most popular (and richest) boy at school, for a weekend of “huntin’, shootin’, fishin’,” she accepts it without question. After all, what better way to gain acceptance than through Henry? But when she and a few other students—outcasts like herself—arrive, something immediately feels off. Henry’s parents are nowhere to be found, and the only adults around are several too-compliant servants. Things take an even worse turn as Greer realizes who, exactly, it is that Henry will be hunting…

Truly Devious, by Maureen Johnson
Isolated Ellingham Academy has a dark legacy: decades ago its eccentric founder, Albert Ellingham, lost his wife and daughter to a theatrics-prone kidnapper known only as “Truly Devious.” The case has long grown cold, but the school remained open, and incoming student/true crime aficionado Stevie Bell is determined to take a crack at it. Then Truly Devious strikes again, leaving a fellow student dead, secrets piling up, and a brand-new mystery for Stevie to solve in a trilogy opener from bestselling author Johnson.

I Am Her Revenge, by Meredith Moore
Vivian’s mother raised her with one singleminded goal: to get revenge. Specifically, revenge on the man who broke her mother’s heart twenty years ago. Vivian has no role other than this, no identity but that of a tool for her Mother’s revenge. When she’s enrolled in boarding school in England, it’s only to get her close to her target: sweet, innocent Ben, the son of the man who broke Mother’s heart. But the deeper Vivian goes, the more she realizes that even with all her skills in deception, there’s one person she can’t destroy—the woman who made her.

Poor Little Dead Girls, by Lizzie Friend
Hazing is nothing new in boarding school stories, but in Poor Little Dead Girls, it turns, well, deadly. Sadie is terrified the first time she’s blindfolded and kidnapped, until she realizes it’s part of an induction ritual for a longstanding Keating Hall secret society. The instant popularity membership brings, especially at a school where she’s a scholarship student, is enough to help Sadie overlook the weird marks left on her, and the so-called “Keating Curse” believed to cause girls in the society to commit suicide—just as her own mother did. The circle promises to help her with everything from her future career to landing hunky Jeremy, a student at a nearby brother school. So when she’s kidnapped a second time, Sadie assumes it’s all part of the circle’s plan. But something sinister lurks beneath the society’s glamour, and the Keating Curse? Might be more real than she thought.

The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks, by E. Lockhart
At just a decade old, this book is already considered a classic of the YA canon. Frankie Landau-Banks, aged 15, seems to be in a sweet spot: she’s a legacy student at her private school, she’s the girlfriend of gorgeous senior Matthew Livingston, she has developed a “figure” over the summer. But she’s less concerned about all that, and more perturbed by the fact that she’s barred from joining Matthew’s all-male secret society. The old Frankie? Probably would’ve let it go. But the new Frankie, a sharp-witted girl who knows she’s smarter than the boys she’s up against? Decides to get to the bottom of it—just how and when the secret society was founded, and who exactly the mastermind is behind all those pranks.

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