7 Fab Fiction Books for Uni Students

I don’t know about you, but I really feel like there’s a complete lack of stories that are set at university. In fact, there seems to be a total lack of books for people who have grown older than the characters in YA, but don’t quite see themselves represented in general fiction. I’d love to see more books for people in their late teens and early twenties, but for now, here are seven great books I’ve read that are set at university. I hope that you love them!

1. Freshers by Tom Ellen and Lucy Ivison

Freshers by Tom Ellen and Lucy Ivison

‘Uni beckons. Phoebe can't wait, especially since her crush from school will be there. But Luke's oblivious, still reeling from the fallout of the break-up with his ex. Thrown head first into a world of new friends, parties and social media disasters - can Phoebe and Luke survive the year, let alone find each other?’

Starting off this list is my number one recommendation for anyone who is currently at university, has already been, or is someday hoping to go! Yes, it’s for everyone with an interest in university life and is hands down the most relatable book that I’ve ever read about uni. It’s absolutely hilarious in so many ways and really reminded me of my own first year experience back in 2013. Plus, my younger sister loved it - and she’s not into books at all! If you buy just one book from my list, make it this one.

2. Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell

Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell

CATH IS A SIMON SNOW FAN. Okay, the whole world is a Simon Snow fan... But for Cath, being a fan is her life, and she's really good at it. She and her twin sister, Wren, ensconced themselves in the Simon Snow series when they were just kids; it's what got them through their mother leaving. Now that they're going to college, Wren has told Cath that she doesn't want to be roommates. Cath is on her own, completely outside of her comfort zone. She's got a surly roommate with a charming, always-around boyfriend; a fiction-writing professor who thinks fanfiction is the end of the civilized world; a handsome classmate who only wants to talk about words...and she can't stop worrying about her dad, who's loving and fragile and has never really been alone.

For Cath, the question is: Can she do this? Can she make it without Wren holding her hand? Is she ready to start living her own life? And does she even want to move on if it means leaving Simon Snow behind?’

Ah, here we go, one of my all time favourite books. Fangirl is a story that’s really close to my heart, and it’s one that I whole heartedly recommend to any nervous first year student. Although this story is set in the US, I certainly found the emotional aspects of this book incredibly relatable, and the mental health representation is amazing. If you struggle with anxiety and are looking for a story that you can relate to, then this is the book for you. 

I also adored the parts of this story that explore fandom and fan culture (a topic that I always love in books), and found the characters to be completely adorable. This is a cast that will capture your heart and you won’t want to let them go.

3. Emergency Contact by Mary H. K. Choi

Emergency Contact by Mary H. K. Choi

‘For Penny Lee high school was a total nonevent. Her friends were okay, her grades were fine, and while she somehow managed to land a boyfriend, he doesn’t actually know anything about her. When Penny heads to college in Austin, Texas, to learn how to become a writer, it’s seventy-nine miles and a zillion light years away from everything she can’t wait to leave behind. Sam’s stuck. Literally, figuratively, emotionally, financially. He works at a café and sleeps there too, on a mattress on the floor of an empty storage room upstairs. He knows that this is the god-awful chapter of his life that will serve as inspiration for when he’s a famous movie director but right this second the seventeen bucks in his checking account and his dying laptop are really testing him.

When Sam and Penny cross paths it’s less meet-cute and more a collision of unbearable awkwardness. Still, they swap numbers and stay in touch—via text—and soon become digitally inseparable, sharing their deepest anxieties and secret dreams without the humiliating weirdness of having to see each other.’

The first thing that I want to say about this book is that it has some really great text conversations. Seriously, They’re sweet, funny, and feel very real - which is what I want from this kind of book. The story also explores some really complex family dynamics as well as the experience of sharing a doom room while at college in the US. I loved this book and I’m super excited to pick up the author’s new release this autumn.

4. Radio Silence by Alice Oseman

Radio Silence by Alice Oseman

‘Frances Janvier spends most of her time studying. Everyone knows Aled Last as that quiet boy who gets straight As. You probably think that they are going to fall in love or something. Since he is a boy and she is a girl. They don’t. They make a podcast.

In a world determined to shut them up, knock them down, and set them on a cookie cutter life path, Frances and Aled struggle to find their voices over the course of one life-changing year. Will they have the courage to show everyone who they really are? Or will they be met with radio silence?

I only read this book recently and I absolutely loved it, although be warned, it’s an absolute sucker punch of a story so do make sure that you’re in a good place emotionally before you pick it up. This is another book that deals with the ups and downs of internet fandom, but also features a character who goes off to university. There’s a lot of discussion about uni as a whole, and whether or not it’s a good fit for everyone. Definitely one to read it you love intense and emotional stories like me! Oh, and it has asexuality rep which is pretty cool!

5. Giant Days comics by John Allison (and artists), novel by Non Pratt

Giant Days by John Allison

‘Susan, Esther, and Daisy started at university three weeks ago and became fast friends. Now, away from home for the first time, all three want to reinvent themselves. But in the face of handwringing boys, “personal experimentation,” influenza, mystery-mold, nu-chauvinism, and the willful, unwanted intrusion of “academia,” they may be lucky just to make it to spring alive. Going off to university is always a time of change and growth, but for Esther, Susan, and Daisy, things are about to get a little weird.’

There is so much that I could say about this fantastic series. I’ve only read the first three volumes of the comic books so far but I’m completely obsessed and definitely want to read the rest of them. They’re just so much fun, while also being really relatable and featuring real issues that students face.

If you’re not usually into comics or graphic novels, don’t fear, as this series is a perfect gateway into the format. And if you really don’t fancy giving them a go, you could always just read Non Pratt’s novel - it’s a brilliant addition to the series but can definitely be read independently as well.

6. Normal People by Sally Rooney

Normal People by Sally Rooney

At school Connell and Marianne pretend not to know each other. He’s popular and well-adjusted, star of the school soccer team while she is lonely, proud, and intensely private. But when Connell comes to pick his mother up from her housekeeping job at Marianne’s house, a strange and indelible connection grows between the two teenagers—one they are determined to conceal.

A year later, they’re both studying at Trinity College in Dublin. Marianne has found her feet in a new social world while Connell hangs at the sidelines, shy and uncertain. Throughout their years in college, Marianne and Connell circle one another, straying toward other people and possibilities but always magnetically, irresistibly drawn back together. Then, as she veers into self-destruction and he begins to search for meaning elsewhere, each must confront how far they are willing to go to save the other.’

One of my favourite reads of 2019 so far, Normal People has recently taken the book world by storm. This is a much grittier read than the other recommendations on my list, but it’s so, so good. Don’t expect cutesy characters from this book, in fact, they’re often downright unlikeable and make terrible decisions, but I think that just makes them so much more realistic. I was really rooting for both of them, and could really connect with how tumultuous a person’s late teens and early twenties can be.

Something that seems to really divide readers is that this book has an unusual punctuation style. There are no speech marks used at all and conversations are worked seamlessly into the text. For me, this really worked and I felt that the prose flowed really well - probably due to this technique! This is a great choice if you’re looking for something a bit more literary.

7. We Are Okay by Nina LaCour

We Are Okay by Nina LaCour

‘Marin hasn’t spoken to anyone from her old life since the day she left everything behind. No one knows the truth about those final weeks. Not even her best friend, Mabel. But even thousands of miles away from the California coast, at college in New York, Marin still feels the pull of the life and tragedy she’s tried to outrun. Now, months later, alone in an emptied dorm for winter break, Marin waits. Mabel is coming to visit, and Marin will be forced to face everything that’s been left unsaid and finally confront the loneliness that has made a home in her heart.’

My last recommendation is this fab LGBTQ+ novel set on a university campus during the Christmas break. It doesn’t actually feature much of student life, but it does have really good mental health rep and features characters who are in their late teens. It’s a heartbreakingly wonderful read and I highly recommend that you pick it up.

Have you read any of these books? Leave a comment and let me know!

On my TBR:

  1. Starter for Ten by David Nicholls

  2. My Oxford Year by Julia Whelan

  3. Roomies by Sara Zarr and Tara Altebrando

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7 Great Books set at University