Back to School Adult Fiction

Go back to school vicariously with these compelling fiction reads!

The Wonder Test by Michelle Richmond (2021)

Escaping New York City and the espionage case that made her question everything, recently widowed FBI Agent Lina Connerly returns home to sell the house she has inherited in tony Greenfield, California. With her teenage son Rory, Lina hopes to reassemble her life, reevaluate her career, and find a clear way forward. Adrift and battling insomnia, she discovers that her father’s sleepy hometown has been transformed into a Silicon Valley suburb on steroids, obsessed with an annual exam called The Wonder Test.

When students at her son’s high school go missing, reappearing under mysterious circumstances on abandoned beaches, Lina must summon her strength and her investigative instincts, pushing her own ethical boundaries to the limits in order to solve the crimes.


Small Admissions by Amy Poeppel (2016)

When ambitious grad student Kate Pearson’s handsome French “almost fiancĂ©” ditches her, she definitely does not roll with the punches, despite the best efforts of family and friends. It seems that nothing will get Kate out of pajamas and back into the world.Miraculously, one cringe-worthy job interview leads to a position in the admissions department at the revered Hudson Day School. Kate’s instantly thrown into a highly competitive and occasionally absurd culture, where she interviews all types of children: suitable, wildly unsuitable, charming, loathsome, ingratiating, or spoiled beyond all measure. And then there are the Park Avenue parents who refuse to take no for an answer.

As Kate begins to learn there’s no room for self-pity or nonsense during the height of admissions season or life itself, her sister and friends find themselves keeping secrets, dropping bombshells, and arguing with each other about how to keep Kate on her feet. Meanwhile, Kate seems to be doing very nicely, thank you, and is even beginning to find out that her broken heart is very much on the mend.


Night School by Lee Child (2016)

It’s 1996, and Jack Reacher is still in the army. In the morning they give him a medal, and in the afternoon they send him back to school. That night he’s off the grid. Out of sight, out of mind. Two other men are in the classroom–an FBI agent and a CIA analyst. Each is a first-rate operator, each is fresh off a big win, and each is wondering what the hell they are doing there.

From Langley to Hamburg, Jalalabad to Kiev, Night School moves like a bullet through a treacherous landscape of double crosses, faked identities, and new and terrible enemies, as Reacher maneuvers inside the game and outside the law.


Ninth House by Leigh Bardugo (2020)

Galaxy “Alex” Stern is the most unlikely member of Yale’s freshman class. Raised in the Los Angeles hinterlands by a hippie mom, Alex dropped out of school early and into a world of shady drug-dealer boyfriends, dead-end jobs, and much, much worse. In fact, by age twenty, she is the sole survivor of a horrific, unsolved multiple homicide. Some might say she’s thrown her life away. But at her hospital bed, Alex is offered a second chance: to attend one of the world’s most prestigious universities on a full ride. What’s the catch, and why her?

Ninth House is the mesmerizing adult debut from #1 New York Times bestselling author Leigh Bardugo, a tale of power, privilege, dark magic, and murder set among the Ivy League elite.


Minor Dramas & Other Catastrophes by Kathleen West (2020)

When a devoted teacher comes under pressure for her progressive curriculum and a helicopter mom goes viral on social media, two women at odds with each other find themselves in similar predicaments, having to battle back from certain social ruin.

Perfect for fans of Where’d You Go, Bernadette and Small Admissions , a wry and cleverly observed debut novel about the privileged bubble that is Liston Heights High–the micro-managing parents, the overworked teachers, and the students caught in the middle–and the fallout for each of them when the bubble finally bursts.


The Lake of Dead Languages by Carol Goodman (2003)

Twenty years ago, Jane Hudson fled the Heart Lake School for Girls in the Adirondacks after a terrible tragedy. The week before her graduation, in that sheltered wonderland, three lives were taken, all victims of suicide. Only Jane was left to carry the burden of a mystery that has stayed hidden in the depths of Heart Lake for more than two decades.

Now Jane has returned to the school as a Latin teacher, recently separated and hoping to make a fresh start with her young daughter. But ominous messages from the past dredge up forgotten memories. And young, troubled girls are beginning to die again-as piece by piece the shattering truth slowly floats to the surface. . .


The Gifted School by Bruce Holsinger (2019)

Set in the fictional town of Crystal, Colorado, The Gifted School is a keenly entertaining novel that observes the drama within a community of friends and parents as good intentions and high ambitions collide in a pile-up with long-held secrets and lies. Seen through the lens of four families who’ve been a part of one another’s lives since their kids were born over a decade ago, the story reveals not only the lengths that some adults are willing to go to get ahead, but the effect on the group’s children, sibling relationships, marriages, and careers, as simmering resentments come to a boil and long-buried, explosive secrets surface and detonate. It’s a humorous, keenly observed, timely take on ambitious parents, willful kids, and the pursuit of prestige, no matter the cost.


Everything You Want Me to Be by Mindy Mejia (2017)

High school senior Hattie Hoffman has spent her whole life playing many parts: the good student, the good daughter, the good girlfriend. But Hattie wants something more, something bigger, and ultimately something that turns out to be exceedingly dangerous. When she’s found brutally stabbed to death, the tragedy rips right through the fabric of her small-town community.

It soon comes to light that Hattie was engaged in a highly compromising and potentially explosive secret online relationship. The question is: Did anyone else know? And to what lengths might they have gone to end it?


Class Mom by Laurie Gelman (2017)

Jen Dixon is not your typical Kansas City kindergarten class mom–or mom in general. Jen already has two college-age daughters by two different (probably) musicians, and it’s her second time around the class mom block with five-year-old Max–this time with a husband and father by her side. Though her best friend and PTA President sees her as the “wisest” candidate for the job (or oldest), not all of the other parents agree.

Relatable, irreverent, and hilarious in the spirit of Maria Semple, Class Mom is a fresh, welcome voice in fiction–the kind of novel that real moms clamor for, and a vicarious thrill-read for all mothers, who will be laughing as they are liberated by Gelman’s acerbic truths.


The Broken Girls by Simone St. James (2018)

Vermont, 1950 . There’s a place for the girls whom no one wants–the troublemakers, the illegitimate, the too smart for their own good. It’s called Idlewild Hall. And in the small town where it’s located, there are rumors that the boarding school is haunted. Four roommates bond over their whispered fears, their budding friendship blossoming–until one of them mysteriously disappears…

Vermont, 2014 . As much as she’s tried, journalist Fiona Sheridan cannot stop revisiting the events surrounding her older sister’s death. Twenty years ago, her body was found lying in the overgrown fields near the ruins of Idlewild Hall. And though her sister’s boyfriend was tried and convicted of murder, Fiona can’t shake the suspicion that something was never right about the case.

When Fiona discovers that Idlewild Hall is being restored by an anonymous benefactor, she decides to write a story about it. But a shocking discovery during the renovations will link the loss of her sister to secrets that were meant to stay hidden in the past–and a voice that won’t be silenced…


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