Book list: The College Experience

I’ve been noticing a lot of talk in the YA world recently about the appropriateness of including college students and other 20-somethings in the YA group. There’s the new Serving New Adults Interest Group at YALSA and the recent New York Times article about defining the 20s as a particular life stage called Emerging Adulthood. Emily Brown wonders if libraries should start classifying books as for emerging adults and looks at a few titles that might fit that category. And over at Forever Young Adult, poshdeluxe calls for more YA stories about the transition from high school to college because “if you think a freshman doesn’t quality as a young adult, then you obviously haven’t been to a college party lately.” I definitely agree — the college experience deserves a little more love in books and probably fits best into the YA realm since college students are still figuring out who they are, which is a huge part of YA. Plus, the college setting is a lot like boarding school in that parents and other adult figures can be largely ignored! Here is a selection of books that are about college students and the college experience, whether they are marketed to teens or to adults. Am I missing any crucial titles? Should traditional college-aged students be included in YA?

(I’m sticking to recent-ish titles (from around 2005), though it’s hard to talk about college novels without someone mentioning recent classics Rules of Attraction by Bret Easton Ellis (1987) and The Secret History by Donna Tartt (1992).)

Forever in blue: the fourth summer of the Sisterhood by Ann Brashares
The last book of the popular Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants series follows the friendship between Carmen, Lena, Tibby, and Bridget after their first year of college. As with all the books, the girls deal with their relationships with boys, with family, and with each other.

Charmed Thirds by Megan McCafferty
In the third Jessica Darling book, we see the lovable heroine through her last three years at Columbia University. She struggles with balancing a desire for a true college experience and maintaining her long-distance relationship with high school boyfriend Marcus Flutie.

Secret Society Girl by Diana Peterfreund
Amy Haskel is a typical over-achieving Ivy League student. When the secret society nominations come around, she’s being courted by the infamous Rose & Grave Society. Amy has to learn to navigate the shady, unfamiliar paths of secret society life and has to figure out how to balance her new circle of friends with her old. First in a series of four.

The Man of My Dreams by Curtis Sittenfeld
Follows protagonist Hannah Gavener from age 14 through college as she deals with family issues and her search for love.

Very LeFreak by Rachel Cohn
Columbia University freshman Veronica has a technology problem. Her college friends stage an intervention that ends up with her in technology rehab during the summer.

Cum Laude by Cecily Von Ziegesar
Gossip Girl creator Cecily Von Ziegesar takes on college, with a group of freshmen who fit into typical college stereotypes — the rich girl, her edgy roommate, an artsy guy, and a hippie stoner.

The Ivy by Lauren Kunze with Rina Onur
California girl Callie Andrews tries to survive her first year at Harvard — the exclusive social clubs, the cutthroat newspaper, and the steamy romances — with help from her three crazy roommates. Written by two recent Harvard grads and roommates.

Long May She Reign by Ellen Emerson White
In this fourth and final book in the President’s Daughter series, Meg Powers has to deal with the aftermath of her brutal kidnapping while in her first semester at college.

Dirty South by Phillip Thomas Duck
BFFs Kenya and Lark both move from New Jersey to attend college in the South, but Kenya shines in the schools dance troupe, while Lark is left behind.

Light Years by Tammar Stein
Israel native Maya Laor moves to the US to study astronomy at the University of Virginia, but she still has to cope with the death of her boyfriend in a suicide bombing and reconciling her past experiences with her new American life.

Hazing Meri Sugarman by M. Apostolina
Awkward college freshman Cindy Bixby longs to be an Alpha Beta Delta sister, so she endures the crazy rituals and backstabbing girls to get what she wants. First in a series.

Work What You Got by Stephanie Perry Moore
The first in an urban Christian series, sophomore Hayden finds herself president of her sorority chapter after a hazing incident expels many of the sisters.

Greek: Best Frenemies by Marsha Warner
Based on the ABC Family tv series, this book follows the drama between ZBZ president Casey and her sorority sister and longtime foe Rebecca as they work together to win a campus competition.

1 thought on “Book list: The College Experience”

  1. Bah, I’m in my early 30’s and still love YA. I printed out the article from the NYT and carry it around with me. I think we should consider that it goes beyond twenty-somethings! Perhaps it’s the gen that grew up with Weetzie Bat, but many women my age are checking the YA books out of the library at a crazy rate.
    Forever YA is a great blog, thanks for mentioning it!

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