Let's take a look.
- Dystopian. In most dystopian novels the world has pretty much come to an end, and schools along with it. The plot follows survival, not education.
- Historical. Throw a novel into the past and education was a lot different. Sure, teens still went to school, but it definitely wasn't as a big factor in their social life.
- Paranormal. The schools in a paranormal world may exist, but they are either magically focused (wizards, fairies, mermaids, etc) or they are on the very fringes of the "normal" world in which the characters interact.
- Summer Break. One of my own manuscripts falls into this category. An easy way to get a character out of school, even in a contemporary novel, is to set the plot during summer break.
In middle grade novels, school can be an integral setting to showcase friendships, personal growth, and education bestowed upon the characters by adults. Whether the school is in today's world, a future world, or a fantastical world - most MG books use it.
So how is it that YA books can avoid it? I think part of the reason is that YA novels are typically focused on a character's growth beyond just fitting in. It's about where a teen fits into his world. The world is a much bigger place than just school!
Granted, many contemporary novels incorporate high school as the perfect backdrop for social issues, romance, friendships, drama, and more. I just think novels in other genres have a bigger setting to work with.
What do you think?photo credit: Dean Terry via photopin cc