Library Blog

YA Book Reviews by Amy


YA Book Reviews by Amy: Dark Academia

Dark Academia is an aesthetic that encompasses everything classic literature, passion for knowledge with dark and mysterious undertones. This aesthetic usually includes beautiful white marble statues, earth tone leather tomes, tweed trousers and blazers, and lit candles with melted wax (among many other studious objects, dark green nature, school uniforms and classy clothing). In books, dark academia is set many times in a boarding school or private school (high school or college) and deals with a dark mystery—whether it is secret societies, blackmail, espionage or murder.

I enjoy seeing videos on TikTok of different books that fit this setting and theme, mood boards on Tumbr, and aesthetically pleasing pictures on Pinterest and Instagram. This is not a new aesthetic or theme, but its reemergence on social media had made it popular and fun.

Here are some of my favorite reads that encompass the dark academia vibe!

The Mary Shelley Club by Goldy Moldavsky

Rachel is trying to forget about her traumatic past after a home invasion. Moving to a new house and attending a new school may help, but she has not made many friends. Rachel also begins to have a slight obsession with horror movies to cope with her incident. When she finds a group of friends that are a part of a secret club called the Mary Shelley club, they begin to become close while watching, writing, and “performing” everything horror. Could this club be doing more harm to Rachel than good?

This has got to be one of my favorite books this year! This was such a good book and was super suspenseful and creepy. This is a mix of mystery, thriller, and horror. This book read like a movie, and I would love to see it turned into a miniseries. While it reads like a standalone, I also would love to read a sequel! So good and so dark.

Available on Overdrive and at the library* for checkout.

The Ivies by Alexa Donne

Five girls are known as the Ivies, an elite group that will attend the Ivy schools of their choice by being ruthless and cut-throat. Olivia wants to be seen more than the charity case of being one of the few scholarship students and by applying to Harvard, she is secretly stepping on the toes of her friend and queen bee, Avery. When Avery does not get into Harvard, and other Ivy, Emma, does, friendships are ruined, and Emma ends up dead. Why was Emma killed and can Olivia find out who committed the murder before she is framed?

This was a book that was hard to put down; well-paced and with characters that may be unreliable (because in this book everyone is a suspect), this is a mystery that has the dark academia vibes. Can you figure out who done it?

Available on Overdrive and at the library* for checkout.

Ace of Spades by Faridah Àbíké-Íyímídé

Chiamaka and Devon are both prefects at their prestigious high school; for Chiamaka it is not a surprise because she has always excelled in class and with her peers. Devon on the other hand is a good student but blends into the background and never thought he would be chosen. After becoming prefects, they are blackmailed by an unknown person named Aces; their secrets are exposed, and other untrue rumors are circulating the school. Not only are these posts harmful to their scholarships but endangers their lives. Can they work together to find out who Aces really is? And will the truth be too painful?

Powerful writing from Faridah Àbíké-Íyímídé that made me sit on the edge of my seat in suspense and made me seriously angry at many of the characters. This was a tough read, but a good one.

Available on Overdrive and at the library* for checkout.

People Like Us by Dana Mele

Kay is running from her past, but she ends up at a school where a girl is found dead in the lake. At first it appears to be a suicide, but the police believe that someone might have done that to her, and Kay would have her reasons. When Kay receives a threatening email blackmailing her to destroy her friends’ reputations, she has to do it to save her own secret. It becomes clear that the person blackmailing her is most likely the murderer.

This book is a great example of a ‘who-done-it’ while not knowing where our main character’s intentions lie. Is Kay someone you are rooting for or are you rooting for her comeuppance? Read this if you want to find out.

Available on Overdrive and at the library* for checkout.    

They Wish They Were Us by Jessica Goodman

Jill’s best friend, Shaila, was murdered her freshman year. Shaila’s boyfriend confessed to the crime, so for the past three years it seemed like an open-shut case. Now Jill is a senior and is a part of the secret society from the school that hazes the freshman just like she was. Jill recalls the struggles of fitting in and going through the horrible hazing rituals that ended the night of Shaila’s death. When she recalls certain memories, things are not adding up. Is the true killer still on the loose?

The plot of this book was frustrating in a good way and deals with a lot of issues like bullying, hazing, and other tough issues; it is uncomfortable as it should be. A good mystery and a who-done-it.

Available on Overdrive and at the library* for checkout.

The Raven Boys by Maggie Steifvater

Blue comes from a family of psychics and this year she meets a strange boy named Gansey; Gansey is on the quest to find the ley lines connected to a lost history and Blue may have the answers. Joining Blue and Gansey on their mission are Gansey’s friends: Adam, Noah, and Ronan—the Raven Boys. As this adventure is making Blue and Gansey become close, Blue remembers the dire prediction that Blue’s true love will die. Will denying her feelings and being cold toward Gansey be enough? And will this ragtag group of friends find a long-lost Welsh King?

This book was a lot of fun! The boys attend a private school and are brooding most of the time throughout the book. This cast of characters are lovable and frustrating all in the same breath; romance and friendship are at the forefront of this book series. If you enjoyed this book, fear not, because this is the first book in a four-book series. You can continue reading The Raven Cycle with: Dream ThievesBlue Lily, Lily Blue, and The Raven King.

Available as an eAudiobook on Overdrive and Hoopla, and in the library* for checkout.




*check the link for available copies or to place on hold


Hello everyone! I’m Amy and I am a Youth Services Librarian at the Public Library of Youngstown and Mahoning County. When I’m not trying to reach my reading goal for the year, I like to talk about what I’m reading to my family, friends, and coworkers. You could say I am a little obsessed with reading Young Adult books. I enjoy most genres, but my favorites include: Westerns, Historical Fiction, Contemporary, Fantasy, and Mystery. I am always looking for the next great book that makes me connect to its characters and hits me in the feels.