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Nov 12 2015
by Emily Perry

10 Great Works by College-Aged Authors

By Emily Perry - Nov 12 2015

1. Veronica Roth, "Divergent".

One of the most recognizable young adult franchises of the past five years, Veronica Roth started this iconic trilogy during winter break of her final year at Northwestern University. If you're not already impressed, Roth sold the movie rights to Divergent before her graduation from college. Currently, at the age of twenty-six, Roth has completed the trilogy and published a companion novel.  

2. Marina Keegan, "The Opposite of Loneliness: Essays and Stories".

Marina Keegan's stories surround tragedy, but also greatness in that she wrote these essays and short stories during her college years. At age 22, five days after her graduation from Yale University, Keegan was killed in an automobile accident. She had a job lined up at the New Yorker and would have likely gone on to publish many works that would have astounded a global audience. Keegan's collection of short stories and poems were published after death. 

3. Kaavya Viswanathan, "How Opal Mehta Got Kissed, Got Wild, and Got a Life".

A book loved and treasured by many, "How Opal Mehta Got Kissed, Got Wild, and Got a Life," was written as Viswanathan was a undergraduate at Harvard University. The book centered around the life of a high school student trying to get into Harvard. After the book release, however, it was discovered that portions of the novel were plagiarized. Her publisher subsequently terminated her contract and removed the book from print. 

4. S.E. Hinton, "The Outsiders & That Was Then, This is Now".

My personal favorite YA novel, "The Outsiders" was published when Hinton was only a freshman at Oklahoma. Perhaps an even more impressive fact -- Hinton finished the novel as a senior in high school. Hinton was labeled the voice of the country's youth and subsequently suffered writers block for three years after the release of The Outsiders, likely due to pressure from the public to publish another novel. S. E. Hinton published, "That Was Then, This is Now" and it also received critical acclaim. Hilton's first two novels went on to be made into major motion pictures. 

5.  Zadie Smith, "White Teeth".

Imagine the student body of your college being forced to read your book. That's exactly what happened to Zadie Smith after the publication of her novel, "White Teeth", while she was still a student at Cambridge. The novel became an instant classic and made its way onto the syllabi of many classes all over the world. She went on to publish several more works, all which garnered critical acclaim. 

6. Joyce Maynard, "An 18-Year-Old Looks Back On Life".

Maynard published this shortly after entering the collegiate scene and capitalized on the its success to enter into a relationship with JD Salinger and publish other novels. Published by the New York Times, it is no question that Maynard was practically guaranteed to gain success, especially given the subject matter and unique perspective that her work offered the audience. 

7. Mary Shelley, "Frankenstein".

At age nineteen, the concept for this novel was conceived by Shelley and was subsequently written and published. By age twenty-one the novel was published, and by age twenty-two, Shelley had written two stage plays and two more novels. Needless to say, this woman was practically destined for literary success. 

8. Bret Easton Ellis, "Less Than Zero".

Some hold this work by Ellis to be somewhat autobiographical as it addresses a college student's drug filled winter break, and was written during his time as an undergraduate student. "Less than Zero" saw much commercial success and Ellis went on to publish "The Rules of Attraction" and "American Psycho". Camden College, the setting for "Less than Zero", is addressed in Ellis's other two novels, bringing to mind how much college impacts us as people and writers. 

9. Helen Oyeyemi, "The Icarus Girl".

Yet another case of a high school student publishing in college. Oyeyemi's novel is just the kind of spooky that many readers want in their novels. Oyeyemi brings so much to the table, it's amazing to think that this was written while she was in high school!


10. Michael Chabon, "The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay".

This novel was begun during Chabon's undergraduate years at the University of Pittsburgh, and was later completed to serve as his masters' thesis. The novel follows two Jewish cousins during the era before, during, and after WWII. This college written novel went on to win the Pulitzer Prize in 2001. 

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Emily Perry - Rhodes College

Emily is a Russian Studies major at Rhodes College in Memphis, TN. She loves film, literature, and the US National Park Service. Emily has been writing for Fresh U since June of 2014 and has served as both a web editor and a social media editor. Outside of Fresh U, she volunteers with the YMCA Center for Civic Engagement and is involved with her sorority, Alpha Omicron Pi.

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