More Useful than Calculus: YA Lessons to Help You Survive High School
Classrooms. Lockers. Homework. And more importantly: Friends. Love. Heartbreak.
High school is tough. For 180 days a year, you’re trapped in a building with your friends, enemies, exes, and crushes. You’re trying to figure out who you are, whom you can trust, and where you want to go in life, while somehow finishing your history homework, perfecting your English essay, and making it through a grueling soccer practice.
Whether you’re a wide-eyed freshman or a savvy senior, these seven pieces of wisdom from young adult novels will help you navigate high school and the world beyond it: 1. Join in. 2. Maintain your sense of humor. 3. Find your people. 4. But beware of cliques. 5. Make traditions your own. 6. Challenge authority. 7. Be open to possibility.
Click through to discover the novels that inspired these lessons, and tweet @riffleya with your best advice for high school survival.
Lesson #1: Join in. Charlie is an alienated wallflower who closely observes his family and peers and writes his thoughts down in letters to an unknown “friend.” When he befriends two older students, he experiences, for the first time love, drugs, the Rocky Horror Picture Show, and above all—life.
1 / 7
Lesson #2: Maintain your sense of humor. 16-year-old Jessica Darling feels lost at Pineville High School when her best friend, Hope, moves to Tennessee. Left alone to deal with her idiotic classmates and a potential romance with bad boy Marcus Flutie, she unleashes her snarky, hilarious thoughts in her journal.
2 / 7
Lesson #3: Find your people. When Devan’s father dies, she has to move to LA to live with Reece Malcolm, the mother she’s never met. Her new high school focuses on performing arts, and the friends she makes through show choir and the school musical—though they come with drama of their own—help her cope.
3 / 7
Lesson #4: But beware of cliques. Just before moving across the country and starting a new school, Hailey Harper finds her college-aged sister’s journal entitled “How to be a Hater” with rules for social dominance. Instead of becoming one of the popular girl’s minions, Hailey starts a rival group called The Invisibles, sparking a showdown.
4 / 7
Lesson #5: Make traditions your own. The prom doesn’t go according to plan for these three girls. Bliss’s boyfriend cheats on her with her best friend, Jolene’s date is almost an hour late after she agreed to prom against her better judgment, and Meg is stood up and left in a parking lot. The girls form an unexpected friendship as they try to have fun in spite of the disasters.
5 / 7
Lesson #6: Challenge authority. Upon returning for her sophomore year, Frankie Landau-Banks begins dating a popular senior at her boarding school who belongs to a boys-only secret society. Frankie takes a stand against their sexist and classist policies, infiltrating and manipulating the society to do her bidding.
6 / 7
Lesson #7: Be open to possibility. Quentin Jacobsen has long been obsessed with his neighbor, Margo Roth Spiegelman. On one epic night, she lures him outside and inserts a night of adventure into his otherwise boring life. Afterwards, she disappears. Q, unwilling to let her go, follows the clues she seems to have left behind for him and discovers an adventure of his own.
7 / 7