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In college, you’re going to meet a lot of people that have significantly different backgrounds from you. These books represent a diverse group of people, similar to the people you’ll meet. Additionally, these book characters have dealt with many tough situations that 18 year olds really go through. Reading these books will help you approach this in a sensitive and respectful manner. Some of these are technically young adult books and the characters are still in high school, but I still think that the likeliness of you coming face to face with these types of college students is high.

1. Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell

In fangirl, Cath is just beginning her freshman year of college and her twin Wren is doing her best to separate herself from her sister. Cath frequently seeks refuge in the safety of her dorm room, steering clear from all the parties and college students in general. This is a great read because it shows a freshman year of college experience that doesn’t include getting drunk and having one night stands. You’ll likely encounter a lot of students like Cath who don’t want any part of the insane ragers that often happen on campus.

2. The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky

This one has a high school setting but the characters seem much more mature plus there are many types of personalities. The narrator Charlie is a sensitive high school freshman trying to find his place in the world. He meets seniors Patrick and Sam, who introduce him to the world of Rocky Horror Picture Show. Patrick is gay and Sam and Charlie have their own respective traumas that they must cope with. It’s a fascinating and diverse world that Chbosky has created. I highly recommend this one.

3. Me and Earl and the Dying Girl by Jesse Andrews

Jesse Andrews’s book has recently became extremely popular due to the film adaption that was released earlier this summer. However, I strongly recommend checking out the book first and foremost. The Fault in Our Stars is probably the default book about cancer, but I think this one is a great choice because it’s not a sob story. It is actually one of the funniest books that I’ve ever read. It might be unlikely that you come across anyone who has suffered from leukemia, but I still think it’s worth reading since you’ll likely encounter many people like Earl and Greg in college.

4. The Art of Fielding by Chad Harbach

The Art of Fielding takes place at the small fictional Westish College which is on the banks of Lake Michigan. The book is largely about baseball and the rising star shortstop Henry, who never makes an error. It’s also about more than just this sport, it’s about the characters and the different challenges faced. This one includes five very diverse and memorable people.

5. Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson

Another high school book, but an incredibly important read regardless of how old you are. It’s without a doubt the best book I’ve read that handles the topic of sexual assault in a real and sensitive way. I think it’s important to be well informed about this as you enter college. This book covers what you need to know about it without being preachy in anyway.

6. Along For The Ride by Sarah Dessen

I’m a HUGE Sarah Dessen fan. I wouldn’t say this one is my all time favorite of hers, but I still recommend it for upcoming college students. I think it represents those determined overachiever students that I’m sure you’ll face (or maybe you are one). There’s nothing wrong with that, but I like that the main character, Auden is gearing up for college by reading every serious preparation book under the sun, and already reading her books for her fall classes. It shows a whole other side of the summer before college where the main character parties like crazy.

7. How to Love by Katie Cotugno

This book confronts the issue of teen pregnancy and also the dream of attending college despite this obstacle. I don’t think the first person you meet at college is going to have a kid, but it’s a very real possibility and this handles the topic in a realistic manner. It’s a good idea to read up on the subject, and in my opinion, this is the best young adult fiction book about it.

8. Forever in Blue: Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants Book #4

Technically the final book in this series, it follows four childhood best friends who have just completed their freshman year of college, and all of the adventures that happen over the summer. My favorite part of it is each individual story as they deal with the fourth summer apart from each other. Why should you read it? It shows how strong and lasting friendship can be.

9. The Silver Linings Playbook by Matthew Quick

This is a mature adult book, but it also handles mental illness in an incredibly real way. It’s one that you should read because it helps you understand different personalities in a unique way. The book also embraces the idea that every situation has a silver lining, regardless of how terrible it seems. It’s an appropriate book to read when entering the unknown world of college.

10. Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher

Thirteen Reasons Why is similar to Silver Linings Playbook in the respect that they are both about mental illness. This one is different since it deals with teenage suicide. More than that though, it’s about how we treat other people. Hannah’s suicide teaches Clay and the other kids that everything affects everything, whether we know it or not. I encourage you to read this as you face your freshman year of college.

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