5 YA books to read when starting college/university

Well, it’s getting to be that time of year, when summer is winding down and students start thinking about going back to school.

Of course, this is also a time of exciting new change for plenty of people who are starting out a new phase in life at college or university! For anyone who’s in the position right now – congratulations! And good luck! I’m rooting for you!

Starting out at a new school – usually living away from family for the first time and/or moving to an unfamiliar area – is both exciting and intimidating, and I’m here to give recommendations of five books that will help you through this period of your life. Even though I’m sure you’ll have plenty on your plate with new classes and social lives, these books are the perfect solution for when you need to take a step back from all of that. YA books are honestly a major part of how I survived college, since they provided an escape and brought some magic into an otherwise unremarkable daily routine. They reminded me that I was not alone in my college experiences, and I’m sure they’ll do the same for you!

Now, onto my recommendations…

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Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell

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I couldn’t have a list of books to read in college without including the ultimate! Fangirl follows Cath, whose first semester of college is not going at all the way she expected. Stuck with a strange roommate instead of her twin sister and unsure how to navigate the unfamiliar landscape of her school, she escapes by writing fanfiction about her favorite book series.

If you’re anything like me – and let’s be real, you probably are if you’re reading a list of books to read in college – this book is probably going to feel incredibly relatable. I read this during my first year of college and couldn’t believe how accurate it was to my own experience, down to details like Cath being intimidated by the dining hall because she doesn’t understand how it works. Not only is it nice to read about someone going through the same things as you, but it’s also a reminder to step outside your comfort zone and open yourself to new experiences.

I Hate Everyone But You by Gaby Dunn & Alison Raskin

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One of the worst things about leaving for college, at least for me, was having to separate from the friends I’d grown up with, especially since I thought I’d never find friends as awesome as them in college. (Spoiler: I did.)

In I Hate Everyone But You, best friends Gen and Ava go to colleges on opposite coasts but stay in touch through texts and emails, which is how the whole story is told. Through new relationships and break-ups and all of the weird experiences that you can only have at college, they tell each other everything. College is a time of a lot of changes, and this book shows how simultaneously scary and exciting all of that is, all through a friendship that is as strong as it is hilarious. If you need something quick and feel-good to remind yourself that all the new things in college aren’t all bad and that friendships can withstand change and long-distance, this is the book for you!

Radio Silence by Alice Oseman

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Honestly, who would I even be if I didn’t recommend this book? Even though this is the only one on this list that doesn’t actually take place at a university, I think it’s the absolutely perfect book to read when starting that part of your life. Radio Silence follows Frances, the top student at her school whose mission in life is to get into Cambridge. However, she begins to realize that academic achievement isn’t the most important thing when she befriends the strange, quiet boy across the street and discovers that he is the creator of her favorite podcast.

For anyone who needs a reminder that success in school is not the only thing that matters in life – something that I needed a reminder of a few times during my academic career – this book is absolutely perfect. In a culture that says that there is one set path to success, it’s nice to have this book to tell you that school doesn’t define your self-worth.

We Are Okay by Nina LaCour

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Probably the most melancholy of all of these books, We Are Okay follows Marin, who leaves everything behind when she moves across the country to college. After months of no contact, her best friend is coming to visit during winter break, and Marin finally has to face the truth of what happened right before she left.

Hopefully nobody has to go through what Marin did at the start of her college experience, but that period of life can be lonely and isolating for anyone. Nina LaCour perfectly captures the uncertainty of leaving everyone you know behind, while telling a beautiful story about grief, friendship and forgiveness that I highly recommend for anyone who needs a reminder that they’re never alone.

Your childhood favorite

This one is pretty vague, but I am completely in favor of rereading a book that you loved during your childhood when you go to college. Even just bringing it with you to an unfamiliar place can be comforting! During times of change, being reminded of a simpler, younger time through an old favorite is a welcome relief. For example, I brought all seven Harry Potter books with me to college, as well as another old favorite, The Goose Girl by Shannon Hale. Not only was it nice to escape into these familiar worlds and characters when I was overwhelmed by everything else going on, but it was a great conversation starter when I had people over and they saw my bookshelf! Whatever book or books will help you feel like your college is your home, I highly recommend rereading.

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What books did you read/are you planning to read at the start of college/university? Have you read any of these books?

x Margaret 

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24 thoughts on “5 YA books to read when starting college/university

  1. Awww love this post! I’m about to start law school and even though I’ve already been to college, it still feels a bit nerve-wracking to begin all over again. I really love that you included a childhood favorite in this list. When I first went away to college I made sure to pack The Hobbit just in case I needed a dose of familiarity 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  2. This is such a nice list! I happened to read Radio Silence during my first semester of last year, and it really influenced a lot of my thinking and experience. I read Fangirl a year or two before starting college, so now I’m curious to see what I would think about it now!

    As for the others, they all sound like books I should read soon! And I’ve been thinking about rereading at least one HP book this year, and I think I’ll do that before this semester gets too hectic!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That’s wonderful that Radio Silence came along at such a perfect time for you!! And I highly recommend rereading Fangirl with some college experience under your belt 🙂 Rereading HP is always a great choice, in my opinion 😉

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  3. Emma and Bruno, AFCTL

    This is such a helpful post!
    I am about to go into my preliminary exams so haha that’s fun.
    Fangirl was so good! I am glad to see this is at the top of the list!
    I loved I Hate Everyone But You so much! The sequel was so good too!
    – Emma 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I looove this list! ❤ It’ll be a while before I got back to University (my semester starts again at the end of October), but I love reading Fangirl beforehand every time – it has become a kind of tradition to reread it as Cath’s experience was so relatable to me as well! I also LOVE Radio Silence, it does such a great job discussing academic pressure and making plans for college 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  5. marydrover

    I absolutely ADORED this list! So many of them really do work so well for going off to college! I also brought all seven of my HPs because I just wanted a little slice of home to bring with me, and it did the trick.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Ah what a lovely list and such a great theme! I can’t believe I haven’t read Fangirl yet, I was finally able to buy a copy a couple months ago and… well, you know how this goes haha. It sounds like such a great read and most likely will be incredibly relatable to me, too, so I can’t wait 🙂 AND YES RADIO SILENCE I LOVE THIS BOOK. ❤

    Liked by 1 person

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  8. Pingback: 5 YA books to read when starting college/university – Weird Zeal weirdzeal.com... - book

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