Boarding School Secrets

Though it's been years since I've stepped into a classroom, back-to-school season still brings with it a longing to mark the transition somehow; this year, for me, that's come in the form of boarding school novels.

In The Lying Game (Scout Press/Gallery, $16.99), Ruth Ware (The Woman in Cabin 10) unravels the story of four women, fast friends at boarding school prior to their unexplained expulsion. The events leading up to that moment shape the lives of each woman, just as they also bind them together, seemingly for life--especially when a decomposing body is discovered near the school grounds in the present day.

Secrets also swirl in Phoebe Wynn's haunting debut, Madam (St. Martin's, $17.99), though it's Miss Christie, the newest faculty member at the elite all-girls school on the Scotland coast, who's kept in the dark this time. The more she learns about the school, the more she realizes she's set herself--and her students--up for inescapable horrors that fly in the face of her feminist ideals.

The students in Elizabeth Thomas's deliciously creepy Catherine House are older, invited to attend the eponymous school after high school; in exchange for a free education, students are asked to remain on campus, cut off from the outside world, for three years. It's exactly the kind of isolated setting that is rife for secrets-- exactly what new student Ines finds upon her arrival.

In her adult debut, Plain Bad Heroines (Morrow, $27.99), emily danforth uses the boarding school setting to great effect, probing questions of what is real and what is imagined in a meta novel about a cursed school and a group of actors making a movie about it. It's the queer gothic boarding school novel I didn't know I needed, a perfect transition from back-to-school reading to the spooky season that October brings. --Kerry McHugh, blogger at Entomology of a Bookworm

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