2 YA Sapphic Romances Set at Creepy Boarding Schools | YA Spotlight

Mysteries, hauntings, the occult—more than tests and textbooks await these teens at boarding school.

Mysteries, hauntings, the occult—more more than tests and textbooks await these teens at boarding school.

Marshall, Kate Alice. The Narrow384p. Viking. Aug. 2023. Tr $19.99. ISBN 9780593405147.
Gr 7 Up–Eden is thrilled to be back with her friends at their boarding school, Atwood, even though it means going back to telling lies to her friends about her abusive brother. Her parents are so focused on Luke, in fact, that they forget to pay her tuition, landing her a strange job as paid companion to the ethereal and very ill Delphine, who can never leave Abigail House. Delphine’s illness began after a botched attempt to jump across the Narrow, a dangerous Atwood tradition with a haunting history, but Eden finds her magnetic and beautiful. The closer they get, the more haunted they become, and it seems the ghosts will not rest until they discover the true history of the Narrow. Marshall succeeds in exposing how the gaps between love and obsession or even possession can slowly become blurred, and Eden’s gut-deep fear of not being believed about her assault is as real as her fear of not being believed about the ghosts haunting her. A broad but well-defined and supportive friend group shows lots of examples of healthy relationships, bringing Eden’s unhealthy situations into sharp contrast. Dangerous ghost visitations; a cornucopia of secrets, lies, and misunderstandings; and a compelling cast make for a story with questions that echo long after the last page. VERDICT An excellent sapphic dark academia with gothic vibes and plenty of suffocatingly suspenseful moments.–Allie Stevens

Steven, Laura. The Society for Soulless Girls. 448p. Delacorte. Sept. 2023. pap. $12.99. ISBN 9780593703915.
Gr 8 Up–Mystery is afoot right out of the gate as the Carvell Academy of the Arts is reopened—despite the fact that the murders at the North Tower a decade ago have yet to be solved. The narrative is told in alternating chapters by two ill-matched roommates. Alice is the epitome of angry goth, snarling at every turn, and seemingly uninterested in maintaining any friendships. Lottie, the burgeoning Sherlock, is popular, athletic, and ridiculously thoughtful. Steven does a masterful job of retreading time through each character’s perspective so readers can have the experience everyone yearns for in real life—seeing the same event through another person’s eyes. As the events unfold, however, it becomes clear that there is more than just a Scooby Doo mystery involved here. These girls, like their predecessors, find themselves hip deep in the occult, playing out the musings of a centuries-old nun. Set in England, British phrases are peppered throughout, but American readers will have no difficulty adjusting. Readers who suspect the two main characters are in an enemies-to-lovers trope will not be disappointed as the tension between these two blossoms into an inevitable romance. Young feminists will delight in the messaging about anger and how we teach little girls not to fight so that they won’t know how. The main cast cues white. VERDICT Mystery, occult, and lesbian romance? Yes, please.–Leah Krippner

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