Classes start soon, and we aren’t looking forward to the long nights at Main Stacks, scrambling to finish essays and stressing over problem sets. To make ourselves feel better, we’ve compiled a list of books set in creepy, elite schools that really put our problems in perspective. Because as bad as TeleBEARS is, it’s definitely not as bad as murder.
1. The Secret History by Donna Tartt
OK, this is not a prep school precisely — Donna Tartt’s first novel takes place in a small college in rural Vermont. Six cold, eccentric and intellectual students come together in an elite ancient Greek class for which students are hand-picked for admission by their charismatic classics professor. As they become increasingly obsessed with their studies, they become more and more socially isolated and are drawn into a dangerous world of aestheticism, Bacchanalia and murder. The heavy reading for your classics philosophy breadth doesn’t seem so bad now, right?
2. Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro
Kathy, Ruth and Tommy attend Hailsham, a creepy English boarding school where they spend most of their time doing art and being told to stay healthy. Unfortunately for them, it is not an experimental hippie magnet program but rather a terrifying sci-fi experiment that we won’t ruin for you because that’s sort of the whole point. The other point is that we would rather walk all the way to Soda Hall a million times than go to Hailsham.
3. A Separate Peace by John Knowles
Perhaps the original creepy prep school book, A Separate Peace follows quiet and intelligent Gene and his close friend Finny, who is athletic and extroverted, as they come of age. Gene becomes obsessed with Finny, and Finny founds a secret society called the “Super Suicide Society of the Summer Session,” which is a normal and boyish thing to do. There’s no murder here, but there are a lot of regrets.
4. The Basic Eight by Daniel Handler
Flannery Culp is a senior at a San Francisco high school, a founding member of the Grand Opera Breakfast Club, a somewhat accidental member of an exclusive clique — the Basic Eight — and a teenage murderess. She’s also the fantastically unreliable narrator of the novel, written in the form of a meticulously edited diary. Honestly, Flan’s beautiful and smart friends and their champagne-heavy garden parties sound a lot more fun than anything we were up to in high school, if a touch pretentious. But we’ll take a pass, since what also sounds fun is being alive.
5. Lord of the Flies by William Golding
There’s no school at all in this one, because these English schoolboys have been stranded after a plane crash on an isolated and dystopian island. As usual, the thin veneer of educated, civil society quickly falls apart and reveals a base human savagery, and lots of weird ritual dancing and murder ensues. This makes us feel really grateful that we aren’t marooned in the middle of the ocean and also that we have easy access to the Tang Eye Center. Poor Piggy.
Contact Miya Singer at [email protected].