The Best Books Set in High School or College For Fall 2023

books set in college
The Best Books Set in High School or College For Fall 2023 26

There are so many amazing books set in college and high school. Some are dark academia and some are literary fiction but all the books included on this list will keep you turning the pages!

With summer coming to an end and back-to-school season on the horizon, it’s the perfect time to delve into a book set in the halls of academia.

If you are looking for a charming high school romance or a sizzling college one, a fantasy story set in college, or some thriller books set in high school, this list has it all!

*Books set in college and books set in high school Post contains affiliate links. Purchases made through links result in a small commission to us at no cost to you. Some books have been gifted. All opinions are our own.

Dark Academia Books Set in High School

Ace of spades

Ace of Spades by Faridah Àbíké-Íyímídé

Hello Dark Academia. Centered around Devon and Chiamaka, the only black students at an elite private school, this is one wild thriller.

After being chosen by prefects on the first day of their senior year, Devon and Chiamaka quickly become the targets of the mysterious Aces – a dangerous gossip girl-type character out to ruin their lives.

I was on pins and needles as this thriller unraveled, addressing systemic racism in private institutions in the process.

Find this book in Books Set in High School / Dark Academia Novel / Stalker Books / Psychological Thriller Books

they wish they were us

They Wish They Were Us by Jessica Goodman

At a prestigious private school in New England, a group of kids known as “The Players” rule the school. They get top grades, get into the best schools, and rule the social scene. This is one of the books set in high school that makes me glad I never have to go back.

But when one of the girls in the group is murdered, her best friend Jill begins to investigate who the real murderer is and just how dark their privileged world is. This is a book that will make you think about what privilege means and the lengths people will take to get what they want.

Find this book in Books About Secret Societies / Best Mystery Books / Best Psychological Thriller Books

a study in charlotte

A Study in Charlotte by Brittany Cavallaro

I enjoyed the first book in the Charlotte Holmes Trilogy. I’ve mentioned before that I am a big Sherlock Holmes fan. This Sherlock Holmes retelling differs from the others because it occurs in modern times.

The central characters are the teenage descendants of Mr. Holmes and Dr. Watson. I love detective books that take a different look at a favorite character.

The adolescent angle leaves room for error in Holmes’ deductive reasoning skills. Watson is also a more fleshed-out character who has deductive reasoning skills of his own. This classic retelling wraps up nicely and the characters solve the mystery leaving enough open ends to allow for a sequel.

This is one of my favorite mystery books set in High school.

Dark Academia Books Set in College

Party Girls Die in Pearls by Plum Sykes

Party Girls Die in Pearls by Plum Sykes

This British mystery book takes place at Oxford University in the 1980s when a socialite is murdered. Ursula Flowerbutton, an English country girl, is trying to investigate the murder for the college paper while trying to befriend the glamorous crowd.

It’s a comedic spoof and the outfit descriptions alone had me giggling. I hope it becomes a series of mystery books because I would love to read more of Flowerbutton and her Sloane Ranger friends. The secret societies and prestigious schools make this one of our lighter dark academia books set in college and as historical mysteries go, this is a really fun pick.

The magicians

The Magicians by Lev Grossman

Quentin Coldwater is a high school student obsessed with the made up world of Fillory.  He finds himself admitted to a magical college that is both secret and elite. If you are looking for books set in college, this one has an almost cult-like following.

The best way I can describe this series is if Harry Potter was admitted to Hogwarts in College.  It has a different, darker feel but it is fun, imaginative, and entertaining. The magic in this school is definitely a little bit dark and steamy and for this reason, is perfect for a list of dark academia novels. If you love urban fantasy books, you must read this series of books like Harry Potter. This is a witch book unlike any other.

The Secret History (Read with Jenna Book List) and other December 2022 Celebrity book Club spoilers

The Secret History by Donna Tartt

December 2022 Read with Jenna Book Pick

Richard is one of a select group of six students who have been hand-picked to work under the guidance of a classics teacher named Julian Morrow. Richard is narrating the story and he begins by telling about the death of one of the students named Bunny.

As the story progresses, it is clear that this secret society of students rides the line of morality. The strained friendships and sexual tensions continue to push the edge until Bunny is killed.

This is one of the books about secret societies that was deeply disturbing and difficult to read. It certainly earns its place on our list of dark academia books and books about cults! And as with most books set in college, this one is a perfect book for fall.

Check out this post if you love dark academia.

Best High School Books

True Biz

True Biz by Sara Nović

April 2022 Reese Witherspoon Book Club Pick

True Biz is an eye-opening look at the life of deaf high schoolers in boarding school. The ins and outs of deaf society are fascinating and made me realize I knew so little about the deaf community.

I learned about the ASL vs hearing aids debate. I learned about the politics and drama that go into running a deaf school. I learned that there is a black version of ASL and it’s possible to be racist when signing. t

And of course, I fell for the romantic entanglements and blooming friendships between the students.

This is definitely one of the best coming-of-age books set in high school I have read and this is the perfect book for your next book club!

With the Fire on High

With the Fire on High by Elizabeth Acevedo

After hearing a lot about this particular coming-of-age story, I quickly snatched it up, and let me tell you, the hype is real. This story is set in Philly (which I love) and features a Black woman of Caribbean descent who is entering her senior year of college. 

Emoni wants to be a world-class chef but struggles with pursuing her passions in the kitchen while balancing the responsibilities of having a toddler. It’s a true coming-of-age story that is as delicious to devour as the many recipes described in the book.

This book is perfect for a list of books similar to Lessons in Chemistry because the two main characters have so much in common. Both are trying to balance career and parenthood and both are chefs! And as books set in high school go, this one is five-stars.

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas soon to be a major motion picture.

The Hate You Give by Angie Thomas

This fantastic and incredibly relevant young adult novel tackles the Black Lives Matter movement. Starr is straddling a line between two worlds. She attends a prestigious prep school where she is one of 2 black children in her grade but she lives in a poor neighborhood 40 minutes down the road.

She switches her personality so that she can fit in wherever she is, never truly being her whole self. When she witnesses her unarmed childhood best friend get killed by a policeman her entire life changes.

She needs to decide what to tell and to whom because her words can have dire consequences for her family and her community. It’s a truly wonderful coming-of-age story from thought-provoking books set in high school that all young adults should read.


Beartown by Frederik Backman

This is a heavy story that also has a lot of heart. It’s about a small-town hockey team and the fallout when the star player is accused of raping the GM’s daughter.

Frederik Backman is a master story weaver.  He doesn’t just tell a story but, he submerges his reader deep in the lives of his characters.  This town will follow me for a long time. It’s my favorite of all the Fredrik Backman books and is the first in a three-book series.

If you are looking for coming-of-age books set in high school that will completely blow your mind, this is the one.


Prep by Curtis Sittenfeld

I recall reading this book set at a high school boarding school back when I was a recent boarding school graduate. My school was nothing like the competitive, snobby school this story is set at, but I loved it just the same.

The Massachusetts school seemed to be a Yale wanna-be with rich, preppy kids who have the world at their feet. I avidly followed Lee’s story of trying to find her place in the halls. This is one of the books set in high school that is a total must-read!


Girls with Bright Futures by Tracy Dobmeier

Girls with Bright Futures was gifted to me and it is a total page-turner! What happens when a group of entitled parents are all fighting to get their kids into the most prestigious universities? ⁣Backstabbing, jealousy, and doing anything to get their kids ahead.

I was shocked by what people were willing to do but not so shocked that every page of this book could not be true! However, this book is more than just a fast-paced race to the finish. It has heart, and emotion and had me rooting for the underdog. This is one of the books set in high school that I couldn’t put down!

Best Books Set in College

Tell me lies

Tell Me Lies by Carola Lovering

After hearing about the book adaptation of this, I knew I had to read it. I was captivated by this book so much that I read it in one sitting.

Stephen and Lucy have the epitome of a toxic relationship and getting to see inside Stephen’s head as he toyed with Lucy, was equally fascinating and disturbing.

I immediately watched the series too and then had a chance to interview Carola and Dr. Z about narcissistic characters in books.


My Oxford Year by Julia Whelan

I picked up this contemporary fiction book to help combat my Royal Wedding withdrawal. I assumed it was going to be a light and fluffy romance — I had no idea I was going to be sobbing my eyes out with what is essentially the newest JoJo Moyes.

Ella has moved to Oxford to study for one year before heading back to America to work on a political campaign, fulfilling a lifelong dream to study in the famed English school. But then she falls for her professor and must decide what she wants from the future. We love Julia Whelan and jumped at the chance to include this great book in our list of British romance novels. This is an adult read from books set in college.

The Royal We

The Royal We by Heather Cocks and Jessica Morgan

Look no further than this royal romance. If you haven’t read this romance loosely based on Wills and Kate’s love story, read no further. This is the end-all, be-all of Royal Reads.

This novel spans from the time Bex and Prince Nick meet in college until the night before their wedding. It goes through the ups and downs of the relationship and ends on a cliffhanger. But do not worry. The Heir Affair is already out and you can read that one next.

Why I Love It: I like to think that this is the story of Wils and Kate. It is the ultimate royal read and this is the royal book I recommend most often.

Find This Book In Books Set in College / Royal Reads / Books Like The Selection / Best Beach Reads

Zodiac Academy and more books set in college and high school

Zodiac Academy: The Awakening by Caroline Peckham and Susanne Valenti

Whew. I have found my newest YA Fantasy series addiction. Orphan twins Tory and Darcy find out they are actually Fae after their 18th birthday. And not just any Fae, they are the heirs to the throne and they only need to graduate from Zodiac Academy to claim their throne.

The problem comes in the form of the 4 Heirs – The boys in each elemental order who have been raised to share the throne and rule Solaria together in the Twins’ absence.

They aren’t planning to give up their claim anytime soon and they use their considerable magic in the air, fire, earth, and water elements to put these girls to the test.

This urban fantasy series is on fire hot, with lots of steam, bullying romance, and deadly situations. Even though this is one of a few great books set in high school, do NOT read this one if you are under 18. But if you are looking for books like ACOTAR, you’ll devour this one too! Or check out our list of books like Zodiac Academy!

Literary Fiction Books Set in College and High School

Bright Young Women

Bright Young Women by Jessica Knoll

Inspired by real events, this captivating tale takes you on a rollercoaster ride through the lives of two women determined to seek justice and bring down a serial killer. This mystery-thriller book flips the script on traditional serial killer tales, focusing on the female victims and the women impacted by the perpetrator’s horrendous crimes.

The killer is never named, instead the victims are rounded out and given depth in a way that highlights and celebrates who they were when alive. Perhaps you think this is an odd choice for a literary fiction book set in college, but it’s so thought-provoking.


Vladimir by Julia May Jones

When it comes to books with stalkers, this literary fiction has a vibe of it’s own. Vladimir is the hot new professor at a rural college. A recent literary success, he quickly becomes the obsession of a 58-year-old tenured female professor at the same school.

Said professor is our narrator and her inner dialogue was expertly crafted. She’s on the edge of scandal after her husband is accused of multiple affairs with students prior to those types of relationships being banned.

She knew about these affairs and even had some of her own, but she didn’t want to be caught up in the fallout. Instead, she fixates on Vladimir, a man 20 years her junior.

The subjects this dark academia novel explores are expertly navigated by Jonas, whose gifts as a writer shines in this debut. I would love to discuss this pick from books set in college with my book club!

gifted school

The Gifted School by Bruce Holsinger

This contemporary fiction story revolves around four families as they work to get their children into the new public charter school for gifted children in their wealthy Colorado neighborhood. There are lots of family secrets to unravel and drama galore, but there is a message at the heart of this book.

How much of our wishes and lives are we pushing on our children? Is being the very best what they should be striving for? I found myself contemplating my own children and how I’m raising them. Isn’t that the best part of a good book?

When the story hits so close to home that it leaves you contemplating your life, your children, and your purpose in the world. I can’t recommend this book about motherhood enough. It’s highly entertaining and, quite frankly, a must-read for the parents.

Romance Books Set in High School

I Kissed Shara Wheeler and more goodreads choice awards 2022 books

I Kissed Shara Wheeler by Casey McQuiston

This LGBTQ YA Romance is a refreshing and sweet romance about Shara Wheeler, her academic rival Chloe, Smith, her quarterback boyfriend, and Rory her neighbor before disappearing and leaving clues for the three to find her.

The scavenger hunt is both a literal and figurative search for Chloe, Smith, and Rory to find Shara and themselves in the process. This smart book had me listening nonstop. This is a sweet romance pick from books set in high school

to all the boys Ive loved before

To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before by Jenny Han

Imagine if all your past crushes found out you liked them all at once. EEK! That’s what happens to the heroine, Lara Jean Covey when the love letters she wrote get mailed! While this is a romance novel, the series works for our books about sisters post too!

I love Lara Jean – she is quirky, cute, and totally reminds me of me in high school – except she gets to date the most popular boy at school. But their relationship is fake —- or is it? This is a great YA fake dating book and while not necessarily enemies by the strict meaning of the word, we wanted to include this in our enemies-to-lovers books. And you can check out Best YA Romance Books to Indulge in Now for more books like it.

For more books like these, check out our list of High school Romance Books

Romance Books Set in College

How to Date a Douchebag and more sizzling college romance books!

How to Date A Douchebag: The Study Hours by Sara Ney

When champion college wrestler, Oz, is dared to kiss a girl in the library, he has no idea that Jameson is not as much of a good girl as her diligent studying makes her look.

He loves how she treats him like guy on campus instead of the star athlete he is. He can’t get enough and will try anything to capture her heart for good.

Why I Love it: This series is laugh-out-loud funny.  Each book is a stand-alone featuring a dedicated bachelor from a University’s Wrestling team. They are each tamed by a woman in a totally predictable way, but these books set in college are hysterical.

For starters, the author has funny pick-up lines between chapters that are utterly hilarious, but the dialogue between the characters is witty too.

Find this book in Sports Books / Rom-Com Books / Books Set in College / College Romances / Fluff Reads

The Deal and more sizzling college romance books!

The Deal (Off-Campus #1) by Elle Kennedy

The first in a series of books set in college about hockey players is also the series that got me hooked on the college romance books sub-genre! This one features a bunch of bachelor hockey players who are the campus hotshots.

To get the attention of the man she really wants, Hannah convinces the cocky captain to go on a pretend date with her in exchange for her tutoring services. Garrett is desperate to get his GPA up so that he can stay on the hockey team and play professionally when he graduates.

But when one kiss leads to a STEAMY hook-up, Hannah needs to reevaluate which man she wants.

Why I Love It: It’s very similar to the How to Date a Douchebag series, but it has a bit more heart and a little less humor. This is one of the steamy fake dating books EVER but you will love it.

Find this book in College Romances / Sports Romances / Fake Dating Romances / Books set in College

Beautiful Disaster

Beautiful Disaster: A Novel by Jamie McGuire

Travis is the ultimate bad boy. Self-destructive, Tattoo-covered, but man, when he falls your heart will explode! If you like standoffish boys like Edward Cullen, Christian Grey, or Reid Royal, this is a great series for you.

It just become a movie as well! When Travis meets Abby, he has met his match. Travis tricks Abby with a bet. If she loses, she must move into his apartment. If he loses he must stay abstinent.

Why I Like It: This pick from romance books set in college is unforgettable and steamy.

Find this book in Books set in College / Sports Romance

For more books like these, check out our list of college romance books

What are your favorite books set in college or high school?

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