Winter break is a great time to escape from your school and spend some time attending fictional schools. I’m talking about reading, because sadly you can’t fall into a book and enroll in classes with your favorite literary characters. You can, however, read (and reread) about the towering brick buildings where protagonists spend their time studying, which is the next best thing to actually attending.
Even book characters need an education, but often their schools are pretty different from your average high school or university. From the curriculum to the teaching methods, some of these schools are waaaay more interesting than how you remember high school. The great schools will give you unrealistic expectations about how you’ll study crazy, magical subjects, and fall in love with the brooding dude in the corner (who has a dark secret!), and how you’ll embark on a magical quest to save everyone in the school.
The horrible schools, on the other hand, might give you a sense of relief that the most exciting thing you’ll be doing all day is trying to get through dodgeball in P.E. class so you can eat your PB&J sandwich at lunch, and then suffer through a math test. Because it could be worse.
14. Hailsham, Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro
On one hand, art is encouraged, so that's good. On the other hand, it's encouraged because everyone's trying to determine your humanity. As far as schools go, though Hailsham is supposed to be a happy haven for clones, its sparkling veneer concealing the dark truth makes it more disturbing than desirable.
13. Crunchem Hall, Matilda by Roald Dahl
Miss Honey is an awesome teacher, but Miss Trunchbull is the headmistress. If you put a toe out of line you could end up in the Chokey. I'd definitely fake sick to stay home from this horrible place.
12. Wayside School, Sideways Stories From Wayside School by Louis Sachar
Learning would be difficult when weird things are happening all the time, such as your teacher abruptly turning evil and sending herself home on the kindergarten bus. Sure, it would keep things interesting, but after a while the absurdity would get exhausting.
11. Pencey Prep, The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger
It's full of phonies.
10. Battle School, Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card
There are good things and bad things about Battle School. A pro: You'll make close bonds with the members of your squad. Another pro: You get to complete interesting simulations... in zero gravity. Cons: No one ever tells you what's actually going on, and bullying is a real issue.
9. Forks High School, Twilight by Stephenie Meyer
The whole place is infested with vampires. But some are good looking.
8. OASIS School, Ready Player One by Ernest Cline
You can wear pajamas all day at this school, because it's virtual! The OASIS school in Ready Player One is a haven, because there are no bullies (only your MIND attends), but let's be real — what you really want to be doing is hunting for that egg, not sitting through math class.
7. Spence Academy, A Great and Terrible Beauty by Libba Bray
Spence has a creepy past (mysterious fire = something bad definitely happened), evil's lurking around every corner, and Victorian society restricts a lot of what the students are and aren't allowed to do. However, Gemma, Felicity, Pippa, and Ann find a way to bring magic across a threshold, which makes the classes a lot more interesting.
6. Constance Billard School for Girls, Gossip Girl by Cecily von Ziegesar
Constance is glamorous, and if you attend, you're probably one of Manhattan's elite. You'll also probably attend a million galas, parties, and high society functions, plus who wouldn't want to be BFFs with Blair Waldorf (or at least one of her minions)? However, every little thing you do will be posted online for everyone to see, so good luck keeping anything secret because Big Brother — I mean, Gossip Girl — is always watching. xoxo
5. St. Mortain, Grave Mercy by Robin LaFevers
St. Mortain is technically a convent, but protagonist Ismae trains as a handmaiden of Death, so it's a kind of school. Her violent assignments as an assassin are a downside to this school, but she becomes more protector than killer, and the training is pretty hardcore.
4. Riverdale High, Archie Comics
I always wanted to go to Riverdale High when I was younger, because it's basically the idyllic American school: everyone's a football player or a cheerleader, they're BFFs with the quirky principal, the cafeteria food is endearingly terrible, and after class everyone goes to Pop's for a milkshake. The only issue is that everyone's so darn hung up on Archie, when Betty and Jughead are the real ship they should be sailing.
3. Gallagher Academy, I'd Tell You I Love You, But Then I'd Have To Kill You by Ally Carter
Curriculum includes martial arts, breaking CIA codes, and learning a million languages. Because students at Gallagher Academy aren't just geniuses... they're spies. Sign me up.
#2: Camp Half-Blood, Percy Jackson and The Olympians series by Rick Riordan
Technically, this is a camp and not a school, but it's educational enough that I'm counting it. Camp Half-Blood is a haven for children of Greek gods, where they can do things like swordfight and explore their awesome powers and go on amazing quests. When I was ten I went to camp — it rained every day and I wrote a letter to my mother telling her to come pick me up ASAP. I wouldn't have had to write that if I had gone to Camp Half-Blood.
1. Hogwarts, Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling
Could any other fictional school rank No. 1? If you're a HP fan, you've probably joked at some point that you're still "waiting for your owl," and then wistfully looked out a window, humming "Hedwig's Theme." I may or may not have conducted my college search by googling "universities most like Hogwarts" and then visiting several. Hogwarts is magical, with its secret passageways and Sorting Hat and stellar headmaster and amazing professors. Sure, Voldemort is out to get you, but at least you get to go to an amazing school. It may be fictional, but it's always there to welcome you home.
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