12 YA Novels Set in College

For teens eagerly awaiting their escape to college or those reading "up" about older students, here are 12 YA novels set on colleges campuses.

College Colors Day, the day when higher ed students and alumni proudly sport the colors of their school, is on September 1st. For teens eagerly awaiting their escape to college or those reading "up" about older students, here are 12 YA novels set on colleges campuses.


Study Break: 11 College Tales from Orientation to Graduation by Aashna Avachat, ed. Feiwel & Friends. ISBN 9781250848055. 
Gr 11 Up–This is an appealing short story collection for college-bound juniors and seniors looking for a taste of what the experience might be like. In tales that move from fall to spring semester in chronological months, each author pens a story of college life. VERDICT If the purpose was to provide more college-age voices in teen literature, consider it done. Readers will look forward to more works by these authors and new endeavors in this age and experience category. A worthy purchase.

 Imogen, Obviously by Becky Albertalli. HarperCollins/Balzer + Bray. ISBN 9780063325265. 
Gr 9 Up–Imogen Scott is many things—animal lover, vision board expert, future Blackwell College student, and an amazing ally to the queer community. But Imogen herself is totally, completely straight—obviously. When Imogen spends a weekend at Blackwell with her best friend, Lili, who recently came out as pansexual, and all of Lili’s amazing new friends (who also happen to be queer), things start to become a little less obvious. VERDICT An excellent addition to collections for teens; hand to readers who love found-family stories and fans of Racquel Marie’s Ophelia After All and Jennifer Dugan’s Hot Dog Girl.

This Is Not a Personal Statement by Tracy Badua. HarperCollins/Quill Tree. ISBN 9780063217751. 
Gr 9 Up–Anxiety radiates off 16-year-old high school graduate Perla Perez and off the page in Badua’s YA debut, when Perez moves onto the campus of an elite college—a school she was not accepted to. The pressure from her perfectionist parents leaves her spiraling as she fakes an acceptance letter and then attempts to survive at a college that didn’t choose her. VERDICT Perfect for fans of imperfect protagonists and “can’t look away from the car crash”–stories.

[Read: Rising Class: How Three First-Generation College Students Conquered Their First Year]

The Pledge by Cale Dietrich. Feiwel & Friends. ISBN 9781250186973. 
Gr 9 Up–Sam Carville is a survivor. After a horrific night at his friend’s lake house, he and his boyfriend, Eli, barely survived, with Sam slaying the killer in self-defense. Sam gets dropped off at college and meets his cute new resident advisor, Oren. Oren, a brother at local Alpha Phi Nu, invites Sam to pledge his fraternity. One by one, his new fraternity brothers are murdered. Eli emerges as the prime suspect, but Sam knows Eli well enough to know that it can’t be true. VERDICT A recommended first purchase for any teen collection looking to add a horror-based book with a gay protagonist.

 Unnecessary Drama by Nina Kenwood. Flatiron. ISBN 9781250894427. 
Gr 9 Up–Brooke worries and is anxious but thrives on organization and is eager for a new start at university in Melbourne. Then, she discovers that her former friend Jesse, who kissed then humiliated her at a high school party, is her housemate. VERDICT A fun, breezy read that feels lighthearted but is multilayered, this one will appeal to YA and new adult readers, especially those ready to begin college. Enthusiastically recommended.


 Required Reading for the Disenfranchised Freshman by Kristen R Lee. Crown. ISBN 9780593309155. 
Gr 9 Up–In this novel, readers meet Savannah, a young Black woman who has been accepted to an elite college as one of the top students in her graduating class. When Savannah sets foot on Wooddale University’s campus, she faces microaggressions from her classmates. The conflict hits a peak when a statue of a Black former student is vandalized. Savannah decides she must step up and advocate for the school to change its policies and procedures to make the environment safer for all students. VERDICT Highly recommended. This is a fast-paced, plot-driven novel that tackles topics of racism, elitism, and intersections of those and other concerns of college freshman.

[Read: Here Have Some Back to College Books]

She Gets the Girl by Rachael Lippincott & Alyson Derrick. S. & S. ISBN 9781534493797. 
Gr 9 Up–Alex and Molly, completely opposite strangers, both arrive for their freshman year of college with big plans to reinvent themselves. After the two meet in class, Alex seizes the opportunity to become her relationship coach of sorts and help her land a date. Then of course, romantic comedy high jinks ensue. VERDICT Recommended for all libraries.

Begin Again by Emma Lord. ­Wednesday Bks. ISBN 9781250783363. 
Gr 8 Up–When Andie Rose doesn’t get into her dream college, she goes to community college and works hard to transfer. She shows up at Blue Ridge State midyear, armed with a relentlessly positive attitude and unlimited snack cakes, and jumps headfirst into college life. As she finds a home away from home at Blue Ridge State, complete with ride-or-die friendships and maybe even a new romance, Andie will have to come to terms with her past, reckon with her expectations for herself, and find a future path that’s all her own. VERDICT A worthwhile addition to your collection to satisfy romance lovers and fans of Lord’s previous books.

 Whistleblower by Kate Marchant. Wattpad. ISBN 9781989365083. 
Gr 9 Up–While covering her Southern California college’s multimillion dollar football team for the school newspaper, reporter Laurel Cates hears rumors about the coach’s drinking, womanizing, and worse, all of which contradict his public image as a leader and a recovering alcoholic. VERDICT Explicit sexual references, binge drinking, and an off-campus drag show provide a realistic backdrop to college life as student reporter Laurel investigates criminal allegations against the head football coach. Enthusiastically recommended.

[Read: 15 Titles to Help Students and Families With College Prep]

And They Lived by Steven Salvatore. Bloomsbury. ISBN 9781547608195. 
Gr 10 Up– After his gay stop-motion videos of Disney characters went viral during his senior year of high school, Chase, a queer nonbinary artist, is living his happily ever after as he starts freshman year in a prestigious animation program. VERDICT A sex-positive, LGBTQIA+ romp through an artist’s freshman year of college, with quick, witty dialogue and sure pacing that makes it a perfect crossover title for older teens and college students in the vein of Rainbow Rowell’s Fangirl and Margot Wood’s Fresh.

 See You Yesterday by Rachel Lynn Solomon. S. & S. ISBN 9781665901925. 
Gr 10 Up–Barrett Bloom is ready to discover herself in college. However, on her first day of class, September 21, everything goes wrong. Her roommate is her high school frenemy, she’s humiliated by a random guy in her physics class, she botches her interview for the college paper, and she accidentally sets a frat house on fire. Exhausted and terrified, she falls asleep only to wake up on September 21. Again. VERDICT Perfect for fans of Solomon’s work, but also recommend to readers who enjoy contemporary romance and are open to science fiction and a bit of magic.

Roll for Initiative by Jasmine Walls. illus. by Dozerdraws. Mad Cave Studios. (The Last Session: Bk. 1). ISBN 9781952303197. 
Gr 8 Up–The first meeting of a Gender Sexuality Alliance turns into a long-running RPG campaign when the high school club’s president is a no-show and five members fight boredom by playing Dice & Deathtraps. Four years later, the college students reunite to finish the quest and share post-college plans, but an interloper throws off the dynamics, and tensions rise in the game and in life. VERDICT Although the characters are older than is typical for YA, this graphic novel has middle school appeal; there is one use of a curse word in this otherwise clean but formulaic tale. Recommended where supplements on gender identity are needed and where RPGs are popular.

Be the first reader to comment.

Comment Policy:
  • Be respectful, and do not attack the author, people mentioned in the article, or other commenters. Take on the idea, not the messenger.
  • Don't use obscene, profane, or vulgar language.
  • Stay on point. Comments that stray from the topic at hand may be deleted.
  • Comments may be republished in print, online, or other forms of media.
  • If you see something objectionable, please let us know. Once a comment has been flagged, a staff member will investigate.



We are currently offering this content for free. Sign up now to activate your personal profile, where you can save articles for future viewing