5 Dark Academia novels perfect for a fall semester
Previously only found on Pinterest boards and Tumblr blogs, dark universities infiltrated the great internet significantly when Covid-19 began. Videos on Youtube and TikTok started popping up, showing off the best looks for tweed and discussing books with central learning themes.
The concept of dark academia means several things, depending on who you ask. Generally, it is the aesthetic of a lifestyle dedicated to learning, especially the classics, literature, theater and art. Because our visuals of “the academic” are very Eurocentric, the look often involves donning muted colors / textures, long pants, and a formal coat. He gets bonus points if there is an (at least) century-old building infested with ivy to explore and well-maintained grounds to walk around. Wikipedia defines the Black Academy as “a social media aesthetic and subculture centered on higher education, writing / poetry, the arts and classical Greek and Gothic architecture.”
Before the Internet took the idea and exploited it, Donna Tartt’s 1992 novel The secret story would lay the literary bases of this aesthetic in a really vague idea of a genre. In addition to the old buildings and clothes of the prep school, mystery, forbidden love, and murder have become staples of the academy’s dark stories.
Like the aesthetic, the dark academy in fiction is also loosely labeled and still in conversation. Similar to the term “young adult” (YA), people don’t always agree with what makes and doesn’t make a difference. In June, video essayist Rowan Ellis uploaded an in-depth and insightful video on the subject of the black academy and its critics. These are issues of elitism, racism, and a general lack of substance among those who engage in aesthetics.
Here are some more recent works of fiction that fit this aesthetic and, true to academia, also seem to grapple with the very issues of aesthetics and its primary audience in the novel’s themes:
This month, Lee’s Sapphic romance takes place in a boarding school with a history of occult activity. In the first ten years of its opening, the Dalloway School was the site of five gruesome deaths.
After the tragic death of his girlfriend, Felicity just wants to go through her senior year. A year in which she must return to the dormitory which is said to be haunted by the spirits of the Dalloway Five. However, she is drawn to helping prodigy novelist and Dalloway freshmen Ellis research her second book on the original five deaths.
This paranormal thriller will make the past (literally) bleed into the present.
During the first public performance of their final year at the Dellecher Classical Conservatory, seven young Shakespearean actors are confronted with real-life violence. The next day, they have to convince themselves and the police of their innocence. After a ten-year incarceration linked to this performance, one of the actors, Oliver, is ready to speak.
Perfect for fans of The Bard, Rio uses his real-life experiences as an actor and to create this story of rivalry and friendship. The 2017 Murder Mystery is Rio’s debut novel.
Two competitive Niveus Private Academy students, Devon and Chiamaka, have only one goal: to become a valedictorian and join a leading university. The pursuit of perfection is a full-time job. After anonymous texts from someone passing through Aces begin to reveal their secrets, the two must try to work together to save their reputations. Things escalate, Aces’ pranks becoming more and more deadly and secrets within the academy begin to surface.
As a fan of Alyssa Cole When no one is watching, I’m excited to dive into this social commentary thriller from first author Àbíké-Íyímídé. The YA mystery is described as a mixture of Gossip Girl, Get out, and Pretty little Liars.
While Dark Academia’s sets and themes tend to be very serious, that doesn’t mean they can’t be funny. From the author of Cameron Post’s poor education comes the spooky, sapphic and satirical romance Plain Bad Heroines. The book begins with two young students obsessed with outrageous writer Mary MacLanethe at the Brookhants School for Girls. Then the girls are found dead, covered with wasps. After 3 other mysterious deaths, the school shivers its doors.
Made famous by a bestselling novel published a century later, the story should be adapted for cinema. The controversial film will star it-girl, Harper, and former child star, Audry. Additionally, the film is set to be shot on Brookhants’ own land.
With a thickness of 600 pages, this volume also gives the reader illustrations (by the artist Sara Lautman) and epistolary elements. Published just before Halloween in 2020, the book describes itself as a The favourite meets The Haunting of Hill House.
As a scholarship student in a selective graduate program at Warren University in New England, Samantha doesn’t feel like she fits in with the rest of the wealthy students. At first, she tries to convince herself that she doesn’t care about this plastic-like band (Mean Girls) called the Bunnies. However, that changes when she receives an invitation to join Bunnie’s. Coal Fair.
By engaging with this sinister group, Samantha loses herself and her sense of reality as she ventures into the rabbit hole.
(Featured image: Delacorte Press, Feiwel & Friends, and Penguin Books.)
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