Good morning, good afternoon, good evening! Whatever it is where you are when you’re reading this. This is my first post for the Calendar Girls blog event, as hosted by Adrienne at Darque Dreamer Reads and Katie at Never Not Reading. I wanted to post last month, but as I said last week, I got sick for a few weeks and then my whole schedule got out of whack. So here I am, for the September round!
This month’s theme, as you can see from the title, is ‘Best Book Set in a School.’ This is a bit odd for me, because here in Australia, the kids and students have been at it since February – and as I write this, it’s the third day of Spring, although it’s miserable and rainy right now.
At first I had to wrack my brain for a book set in school. Even the YA I read is usually paranormal, so there isn’t much schooling going on. But then once I thought of one book, suddenly I remembered all the great books that centre around (or at least in) a school. After all that, I settled on:
by Libba Bray
‘It’s 1895, and after the suicide of her mother, 16-year-old Gemma Doyle is shipped off from the life she knows in India to Spence, a proper boarding school in England. Lonely, guilt-ridden, and prone to visions of the future that have an uncomfortable habit of coming true, Gemma’s reception there is a chilly one. To make things worse, she’s been followed by a mysterious young Indian man, a man sent to watch her. But why? What is her destiny? And what will her entanglement with Spence’s most powerful girls–and their foray into the spiritual world–lead to?’
I discovered A Great and Terrible Beauty right after it was published, and fell in love with Libba Bray’s writing right then and there. I was an awkward kid, and this book helped me escape from a rough few high school years (and undiagnosed anxiety and depression as I now know). Gemma was my avatar into a magical world of corsets, strange realities, and the romanticism of Victorian England. It helped that Gemma herself was a misfit at her new school and I identified with her. And even though the book only takes place in India for a brief time before Gemma is shipped away, the description of the tropical heat in Victorian garb resonated with me, when I think of what women must have done in that kind of heat in Australia back then – those clothes really were not made for tropical and subtropical climates.
I digress – this book is wonderful if you love YA, historical fiction and fantasy. And the complicated turns that young women’s friendships can take. This has all of that. And if you haven’t read anything by Libba Bray, what are you doing? If the Gemma Doyle trilogy (yes, there are two more books in the series) doesn’t seem up your alley, Going Bovine is one of my favourite books of all time.
Now, it’s time for a couple of honourable mentions, because there are at least two other books set in schools that have left impressions on me:
by Melina Marchetta
Looking for Alibrandi and its author are both icons of Australian literature. If you want a great book about being seventeen, in your final year of high school; dealing with racism; dealing with the overwhelming demands of a traditional family and family history – read this book. If you’re Aussie, you’ll recognise the stress of your final year of high school and taking the HSC (although let’s be honest, if you’re a bookish Aussie, you’ve probably read this already), and if you’re not Australian, do yourself a favour and give this book a try – it’s going to feel familiar, but also will be something new all at the same time.
by Katherine Holubitsky
I picked up Alone at Ninety Foot from a Schoolastic brochure sent home from school when I was ten or eleven. I read it once. Then I read it again. And again. This book deals with some dark stuff, but also has the lightness of making new friends, dealing with a parent’s new relationship, and first crushes on boys. It can be read in a day, and it became my ‘sick home from school book’ because I could read it quickly, and it had the right amount of real life and escapism. I wished I could be like Pamela, able to go off on my own into semi-dangerous situations, despite the concern of my parents. As a child I never really broke out of being nervous, but as an adult I think (or even and older teenager) I managed to grow into a gutsy bravery similar to Pamela’s. I’m well overdue for a reread of this book. I’d like to see what adult me thinks of it after having such a connection with it as a kid.
And that brings me to the end of my September Calendar Girls entry. Have you read any of these books? If so, what did you think? If not, do you think you’ll give one of them a go?
Tomorrow, I’ll be back to my read through of Moby Dick (fingers crossed, I’m still getting back into the swing of things).