7 Reasons Why I Love Dark Academia + Upcoming Releases

by - May 19, 2020

Top Ten Tuesday was created by The Broke and the Bookish in June of 2010 and was moved to That Artsy Reader Girl in January of 2018. It was born of a love of lists, a love of books, and a desire to bring bookish friends together. For more info, click here.
This week I'm taking a break from the usual fantasies and romances that I usually discuss on this blog. Let me share one of my favorite subgenres of all time. Someday I'd love to make a more in-depth post, but for now...

7 Reasons Why I Love Dark Academia (and upcoming DA books I'm excited for!)

1. It's about passion for knowledge

Dark academia books are often scholarly, and it's not just because they're set in schools. They usually feature characters who obsess over one field of study. In The Secret History, our cast is all Greek Classics majors. In If We Were Villains, they're all Shakespearean actors. In The Bellwether Revivals, they're musicians. And Ninth House, while more fantastical, is about history and the occult.

I always love hearing people discuss what they're passionate about. I love learning more about art, literature, and culture. Maybe it's the Ravenclaw in me. Or maybe I'm just a huge nerd. But if there are chapters featuring class discussions? I am in.

Moodboard by me

2. It features obsessive friendships

Do you remember your school days when friendship seemed like the most important thing in the world? Well, these characters will literally kill for love -- or hate, or jealousy, or passion. The tragedy is always in the characters' relationships with themselves and each other. You see how fast friendships are broken... and how quickly love turns sour and vicious...

3. They're honestly pretty gay

You know how some friendships are so intense that they feel like romances? Yes, those kinds of intense friendships make the backbone of dark academia. And while unfortunately, many authors prefer to ignore these implications, others also write it for what it is (see: If We Were Villains). Subtext is the backbone of dark academia, but upcoming releases seem to be more open about it.

4. There's always a murder to solve.

Hey, I love crime novels! I think they're exciting and pulse-pounding and they're the reason why I don't get enough sleep on a regular basis. Dark academia combines nerdiness with murder, and that's why I'm such a huge fan. But interestingly enough, it's not always about who killed who. It's about the why. Psychological build-up. Hubris. Walking tragedies. You know you're not getting your happy ending, but damn, you can't look away.

5. The Romantic aesthetic.

Yep, Romantic with a capital R. We have our lush settings: Ivy League and brick, a cozy apartment stacked full of books and bones, autumn leaves falling on cobblestones. But we also have our Byronic heroes. Protagonists shivering in their black coats, drinking too much wine, falling in love and getting their hearts broken. Duels that don't belong in the twenty-first century. Breakdowns and arguments and throwing bodies out to sea. A Romantic poet would be proud.

6. It's about an outsider looking in

Everyone wants to belong. I think this is why dark academia resonates with so many readers. We all wish to be part of an exclusive club, to have rich and intelligent friends, to be worldly and chosen. At the end of the day, we're all Richard Papen or Oscar Lowe or Jane Hudson or Violet. It doesn't matter if you're 16 or 22 or 35. We all want to be better than we actually are.

7. They are Sublime

A lot of readers think dark academia is pretentious, but I appreciate how they can discuss elite fields of study in a very accessible, pop cultural way. You don't need to join a university to learn more about the obscure Classics. You don't need to fight your way up to the ivory tower. You just need to pick up a book and find out for yourself.

Dark academia protagonists are like Icarus; they fly too close to the sun and get burned. As they navigate ancient classics or epic emotions or timeless genius, they bring us along with them. Never in my life have I had an interest in Shakespeare or the Ancient Greeks, but dark academia novels brought those giants nearer to my heart. I appreciate it!


If you're reading this post, you've probably already read the usual Dark Academia books. So here are upcoming releases that I'm very excited for!

These Violent Delights by Micah Nemerever [Sept 15, 2020]

The Secret History meets Call Me by Your Name in Micah Nemerever's compulsively readable debut novel—a feverishly taut Hitchcockian story about two college students, each with his own troubled past, whose escalating obsession with one another leads to an act of unspeakable violence.

When Paul and Julian meet as university freshmen in early 1970s Pittsburgh, they are immediately drawn to one another. A talented artist, Paul is sensitive and agonizingly insecure, incomprehensible to his working-class family, and desolate with grief over his father’s recent death.

Paul sees the wealthy, effortlessly charming Julian as his sole intellectual equal—an ally against the conventional world he finds so suffocating. He idolizes his friend for his magnetic confidence. But as charismatic as he can choose to be, Julian is also volatile and capriciously cruel. And admiration isn’t the same as trust.

As their friendship spirals into an all-consuming intimacy, Paul is desperate to protect their precarious bond, even as it becomes clear that pressures from the outside world are nothing compared with the brutality they are capable of inflicting on one another. Separation is out of the question. But as their orbit compresses and their grip on one another tightens, they are drawn to an act of irrevocable violence that will force the young men to confront a shattering truth at the core of their relationship.

Exquisitely plotted, unfolding with a propulsive ferocity, These Violent Delights is a novel of escalating dread and an excavation of the unsettling depths of human desire.

A Deadly Education by Naomi Novik [Sept 29, 2020]

A Deadly Education is set at Scholomance, a school for the magically gifted where failure means certain death (for real) — until one girl, El, begins to unlock its many secrets. There are no teachers, no holidays, and no friendships, save strategic ones. Survival is more important than any letter grade, for the school won’t allow its students to leave until they graduate… or die! The rules are deceptively simple: Don’t walk the halls alone. And beware of the monsters who lurk everywhere. El is uniquely prepared for the school’s dangers. She may be without allies, but she possesses a dark power strong enough to level mountains and wipe out millions. It would be easy enough for El to defeat the monsters that prowl the school. The problem? Her powerful dark magic might also kill all the other students.

How We Fall Apart by Katie Zhao [Jan 5, 2021]

In a YA thriller that is Crazy Rich Asians meets One of Us is Lying, students at an elite prep school are forced to confront their secrets when their ex-best friend turns up dead and they're the prime suspects in her murder.

When Nancy Luo's former best friend Jamie Ruan, the top ranked junior at Sinclair Prep, goes missing, Nancy is shocked. She's even more shocked when Jamie is found dead.

The police suspect murder, and Nancy and her three friends become the prime suspects-thanks to The Proctor, someone set on publicly incriminating them via the school's social media app. The quartet used to be Jamie's closest friends - and she knew dangerous secrets about each of them that could ruin their reputations as the other top- ranking students. For Nancy, the stakes are even higher, because unlike her wealthy friends, she could lose her full ride scholarship, too.

As the group struggles to dear their names while maintaining their perfect GPAS, they race to uncover Jamie's true killer-before the Proctor exposes al of their darkest secrets. But Nancy can't help but suspect that one of her friends is lying. Or is there a missing piece in her own memory that could expose the truth-not just about Jamie's fate, but also about herself?

A Lesson in Vengeance by Victoria Lee [2021]

Krista Marino at Delacorte Press has acquired, at auction, Victoria Lee’s A LESSON IN VENGEANCE. Pitched as The Secret History meets Genuine Fraud and The Craft, it’s the story of Felicity Morrow, a senior returning to school after her girlfriend’s tragic death, only to meet a new student and teenage literary prodigy who transferred to research the school’s bloody history, and recruits Felicity into a murderous experiment of their own. 

Any other dark academia releases you're hyped for?

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  1. I didn't know this was a subgenre, but it does sound fun!

    My TTT .

  2. I only just found out that dark academia is a subgenre but I loved Ninth House so I'm definitely on the lookout for more! :D

  3. I love this subgenre! I didn’t know what it was called but now that you’ve defined it I am also a huge fan! Based on the description I feel like you would really love Angry God by LJ Shen it takes place in an prestigious art academy and has all the dark elements!! Great post :)

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