As August winds down, many students switch gears from summer vacation fun to focusing on starting college. Going off to college is a rite of passage as young adults experience the new sense of freedom that comes along with it - for better or worse. College is often the bridge from adolescence to adulthood and sets the stage for the rest of one’s life.
In fiction, many authors explore the college experience and all of the transformations that occur during those long and short four years. Whether it’s falling in love, finding your true identity or accidentally getting caught up in a murderous secret society (oops!), many interesting stories are found on campus.
In The Black Flamingo by Dean Atta, a mixed-race gay teen named Michael always struggled to find exactly where he fit in the world. That is until he goes off to university and discovers The Drag Society, a welcoming group that helps Michael forge his true identity. However, the story isn’t so rosy for Wallace in the book Real Life by Brandon Taylor. Gay and Black, Wallace hopes to find acceptance by moving from the South to his new Midwestern university. What he finds under the veneer of his liberal grad school campus are microaggressions, confusing relationships and the fact that he can no longer outrun his past traumas.
College friendships can also take you down a dark path, as Richard finds in Donna Tartt’s The Secret History. With a flair for the Greek language, Richard does everything he can to join the elite Classics cohort led by enigmatic professor Jim Morrow. Once inside the group, Richard uncovers the truth about his new friends and secrets that permanently alter the course of his life.
While discovering your identity and group of friends shape the college experience, so does finding true love. In The Marriage Plot by Jeffrey Eugenides, English major Madeleine Hanna finds herself in a love triangle, as she must choose between her devoted best friend and a mysterious and moody loner. In Normal People by Sally Rooney, Connell and Marianne attempt to navigate their complex relationship under the blurring lenses of class and power dynamics.
These titles are just a few examples of the types of college narratives you can find in the Fiction section here at KDL. Whether you’re looking for literary fiction, a love story or a thriller set on an atmospheric college campus, you’re bound to find something to suit your mood.
– Angela, Alpine Township Branch