Very important questions I have about American high schools in YA fiction as a non-American // I demand answers

Most YA contemporary fiction is set in unrealistic U.S. high schools that supposedly have horrible food and mean kids everywhere.

Like, 98% of schools are in the US, to be honest, and a lot of them are carbon copies of each other, except named after a different president or something.

Which kind of sucks because THERE ARE SO MANY OTHER COUNTRIES OKAY. (Like Canada… *cough* Or think about European countries! Or Asian countries! Australia!)

And because we’re reading about teens and all, there’s the whole issue of high school and that little thing called systemically engineered torture education!!

I know living in Canada means our high schools are not that different from US high schools, or not so different compared to other countries, but there are still several aspects that I’m not familiar with which reoccur in YA books enough to just make me wonder… does this actually happen in real life?? Maybe it’s just because I don’t live in the States?

And I know a lot of you are from the States, and a lot of you aren’t! So I thought it would be interesting to talk about perspectives on what high schools are like in fiction vs. reality!!

1. Is Phys Ed mandatory for all years of high school?

I’M SO CONFUSED ABOUT THIS. Because I keep seeing these main characters getting all worried or annoyed or frustrated about gym class and I… just don’t relate??? Not past grade 9, anyway.

I know several of my friends who did take physical education in Grade 10/11/12, but you only need ONE (1) health/phys ed credit to graduate, and I think it’s mandatory to take it in Grade 9?

Aside from that, you don’t ever have to suffer through the dreaded class again unless you choose to!!

(For the Ontario diploma, anyway.)

So why, are all these characters choosing to suffer through phys ed if they hate it so much?? Hmm??? (Okay yes, plot, but REALISM. HELLO. Where is it.) Is it mandatory in the US?

I’m just honestly so tired of seeing 17/18 year olds who, complain or face drama because of gym class when realistically, based off my experience, THEY DON’T NEED TO TAKE IT. I know it’s important to plot and such but it’s irritating! Of course, if it IS mandatory, then… whelp, I send you my condolences.

Unless you enjoy phys ed, in which case yayy for you!! But not for the fictional characters lmao.

ALSO. Is gym class usually co-ed?? Because mine wasn’t? (Usually.) Girls and guys had separate teachers, did activities and sports separately. I suppose that would strip a novel of its usual gym class drama, but just being real here.

2. Are there mean girls at every high school?

(Okay, another joke question because no, obviously.) But how common are they, hm??? Not as common as they are in books, I bet. I swear, books paint American high schools as some kind of hang out spot for girls who hate on other girls–like can you please not???

Sure, I didn’t love everyone at my school, but no one was outright mean to someone else? I’m not saying they don’t exist, but I feel like they’re overdramatized A TON in fiction. If you didn’t like someone, you just stayed away from them, plain and simple. Not blackmail them for a guy and/or try to undermine them and make sure their life is miserable… just no. Chill.

3. Do you ever have courses aside from English/Math/Science/History??

Okay, slightly sarcastic question because obviously yes. BUT I MEAN. Going by YA novels… no, you don’t.

What a sad life. (I mean, that’s school already but.)

Also why are the English teachers always the most chill ones? They’re not always? I’ve previously had and my friends have had some pretty crappy English teachers before, who are NOT super philosophical and easy going. Nope.

I am kind of curious about what courses are like in US high schools though, like obviously not that different, but what’s the day rotation like? How many do you take? Are you guys also semestered?

Why are courses just never talked about at all??

DO YOU KNOW HOW STRESSFUL CHOOSING THEM CAN BE. And you know, they can be kiiiiind of important. For college and university. Just a thought.

Maybe that’s just me and my indecisive self oops

4. How many people usually take AP classes anyway?

I think it’s slightly unrealistic great that YA contains so many smart characters who apparently don’t need to study to pass their classes, and I’m not trying to discredit anyone who takes/has taken AP (Advanced Placement) classes, but WHY is it everywhere. Just a thought. You don’t need to take AP to be smart, you know.

I low-key feel like authors just shove it in everywhere without a thought to kind of show, yeah, this character is super smart and serious about school… but then they don’t show that through anything else which makes it kind of futile?

AP is not big at all where I live, but I don’t know, there are so many books I’ve read where the main character is taking like all AP classes or whatnot. That’s great, but it makes it seem a lot more common than it might be? Perhaps? I don’t know, I’m just guessing from my own experience.

And speaking of advances classes and the like, is the IB program (International Baccalaureate) not popular at all in the States? Like, I don’t think I’ve EVER seen it in a book… but it exists in the States I’m sure, so…….

OR MAYBE… just a typical, standard high school diploma works too. You know.

5. Do people really have different hours for lunch time?

Okay, a serious question! Because I noticed sometimes characters would mention who they don’t have the same lunch period as their friend, or something similar, which kind of confused me because what is the point of that? Everyone had the same lunch time at my school??

How does that even work, and why? Does the school become too crowded? Not everyone eats in the cafeteria anyway, can’t you eat in hallways and such? I mean, I did. The cafeteria was wayyy too loud and hot and annoying lol. But we all had the same lunch period?

This sad eating alone thing also, did not generally happen, but idk, maybe I was just oblivious.

6. Is cafeteria food really that bad?

I suppose this depends from school to school no matter the country, but in 97% of the books I’ve read, the cafeteria food is supposedly disgusting, or just not appetizing and…???

OUR CAF FOOD WAS DELICIOUS, OKAY. I probably gained 10 pounds from purchasing a delicious chocolate chip cookie or muffin in the morning my first years of high school, but let’s be real, I have no regrets.

I mean, those were some GOOD COOKIES. Omg. Best $1.25 I’ve ever spent. They were super big, too!! Like a good 5-6 inches in diameter.

the return of this beautiful cookie gif omg I’ve been waiting for an excuse to use this

And we had tons of great options for lunch too! I didn’t buy my lunch that often because a) ouf that would become expensive,  b) I’m so not waiting in line for that long I’m a very impatient soul and c) *whispers* my mom packed me a lunch for a large portion of my high school years and her cooking is amazing okay.

But still, we had good food! There were large pizza slices, different pastas, sandwiches, and… POUTINE. Granted it wasn’t a very large quantity (unfortunately) BUT IT WAS SO GOOD.

Would almost go back to high school for all the food, tbh. The cookies, at the very least.

(ALSO. How daunting and scary are cafeterias, really? Books [and movies, actually] make them seem like such a feat, but… they’re really just places where noisy and slightly sweaty teens eat lunch and socialize. I totally understand how for some people that IS a feat [esp. if you have anxiety] but as a generalization, they’re not that bad; and you don’t have to eat there if you don’t want to.)

7. How do groups of friends just happen to have so many classes together?

Grade 9, sure, yeah, I had a decent amount of friends in pretty much all my classes because we had so little options in terms of courses that obviously we’d be grouped together somewhat. And we’re still meeting new people and making new friends anyway!

Grade 10, a bit less so but still not bad. Grade 11 and 12 are so much more random though? You have a lot less requirements all of a sudden and people are taking different electives and the like, which means you’re not often likely to have your group of friends all in the same class(es)?

Unfortunately most of us don’t/didn’t attend Hogwarts….

I don’t know, it depends from person to person/school to school I guess? Depending on how many classes there are for a particular subject, how many students there are, etc.

But I see in books especially large groups of bullies, for example, all in the same Math/English/typical class with the main character and aside from the fact that the bullies seem to constantly pick on the MC (which doesn’t happen? usually?) how are they all together???

I went to a pretty large school, so maybe that’s what’s influencing me but it just makes me laugh to see that happen. Because those chances are just… so slim, where I went lmao. Not to mention bullies picking on someone at all during class was just unlikely lol. Canadian genes? (Jokes, jokes… mostly. Or maybe I just hung out with good people?)

8. How long is your lunch?? 

Why does no one complain about how short lunch is?? These characters seem to fit everything in at lunch and never seem to have an issue with how fast it goes by, despite doing 10 000 things at a time.

For me it was like 45 minutes? And it went by SO FAST. Omg. It was the worst. Walking from your class to your locker/meeting up with friends; 10 minutes! Eat lunch and (GASP) occasionally socialize; 25 minutes! Even worse if you stand in line to buy lunch, have a club meeting or need to finish homework.


Yet here all these characters are just hiding out in the library–speaking of which!! The school library doesn’t always allow food??? What do you do then? — and/or socializing, or going outside nearby to get lunch somewhere else, without a care in the world that, oh, look, lunch is almost over crap, we gotta hurry!!

I see you, authors trying to fit in all the drama at lunch time, but it ain’t working because these students should be getting to class. 😂

9. How comfortable are your seats?

This of course depends from school to school or even class to class, but OH MY LORD SOME OF OUR SEATS WERE AWFUL. The seats were attached to the desk looking something like this:

Which meant to sit you had to make sure to be on the side without the metal bar thing attaching the desk and the chair otherwise you have to do this awkward thing where you lift your leg over the bar (which is made worse if there are people behind you, or a desk right beside you because trust me, it’s not a very flattering position).

And!! The back part of the seat usually had screws, which meant my hair would ALWAYS catch on them and djadiaehfuihfwiuhiuwef I swear it was torture. TORTURE. I lost so much hair from those chairs, I swear. (And I didn’t usually tie my hair up either because who has the time to do that also I didn’t really like to do so)

Of course there are some normal chairs out there which don’t aim to kill me, but then those desks are usually made for multiple people and then you face awkwardness if you’re assigned to a seat with people you don’t know very well or some other awkward situation….

WHY IS THIS NEVER AN ISSUE. I demand characters to suffer as I do.

10. Report cards… exams… studying… death… is that not required to succeed high school??

Sure, some people might just not study or care about exams, but then I don’t think those people also ace their exams without studying? Like, as a general rule? (If you do, that’s great! I admire your skills!)

But there are so many characters I’ve read about who just never seem to care about handing in assignments, or their marks each term and report cards, their average, or their courses, ESPECIALLY during Grade 11/12, yet are on a straight path to some Ivy League school or are in AP classes…………………


High school was kind of stressful okay. I have parents wanting me to have at least a 90+ average and a procrastinator-perfectionist mindset (which is an AWFUL pairing) which meant I worked really hard for my marks because they don’t always come easy!! It’s hard not to spite these fictional characters getting accepted to all their choices seemingly without have done much? How easy is high school for you Americans, hm? I demand your secrets or the lies to be revealed.

Calling all Americans to answer these high school questions!! What is/was your experience in high school? Does it match up to what you read about in books, somewhat? And if you didn’t attend/don’t attend high school in the States, what’s your experience like? Which country’s high school system would you like to read more about in books? Did anyone else have death traps painful seating arrangements or other particular high school experiences?

And I’m sincerely asking about phys ed in the US, because IT IS EVERYWHERE and my brain cannot compute (or search it up on the Internet because this way is obviously more fun).

At this point, I’d just like any schools apart from ones in the US haha no offense!! I find it’s such a shame so many books are set in the US, for so many reasons, but also particularly because of high school. It just gets so repetitive! At least make different types of high schools. Idk. Something. Because right now, there are many similar holes I see and I’m calling out these “schools”. 😂

I just realized 3 of these have to do with lunch time and I’ll just leave it up to you to determine what that says about me…

127 thoughts on “Very important questions I have about American high schools in YA fiction as a non-American // I demand answers

  1. AHAHAHAHA this post made me DIE laughing!!! I have all the answers too and it kills me XD
    YES Phys ed is mandatory for 3 years (ugh) and it’s super annoying. HowEVER, my school is super cool and allows you to have 500000 different loopholes NOT to take it, so I don’t know why anyone does. Mainly because it takes some work and talking to counselors to get a proper waiver.
    There aren’t literal mean girls… But there are definitely the “popular” people who are rude/totally oblivious to others. No one actually likes those people anyway, it’s totally fine. I feel like this is pretty normal.
    There are SO many different courses of COURSE but some people get suuuuper class-happy and try to be super advanced in all areas even though that’s not what they want to study??? I mean, why??? But if you want to, it’s totally possible to take fun classes i.e. music, art, and foods. There’s 7 hours in a day at my school, but 8 (9 including homeroom) at my cousin’s, so….
    AP classes are pushed a LOT at my school, but a lot of people also don’t take them because they only help your grade if you get a C or higher. Obviously it doesn’t help anyone if they’re just going to fail the harder class. And I have zero idea what an IB program is??? What is this magical thing?
    YES we have two different lunch hours at my school. This is simply because we have 1200-1300 kids at my school on any given year, so…. It would be insane to try and fit everyone in at the same time. As it is, my lunchroom is absolutely gigantic.
    YES cafeteria food is terrible. My mom worked with the school head lunch people on a couple of things and has told me about it. I.E. for a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, they would be aware that there wasn’t enough jelly and WAYYY too much pb, but they were literally only allowed to have so much sugar, so they couldn’t put any more jelly, and they were required to have a certain amount of pb, so they had gobs of it. It was insane. Food has gotten slightly better since then, and thankfully you get more choices as you get older.
    DUDE my lunch “hour” is only 25 minutes long INCLUDING walking time! What!
    Studying is just a given… Books are weird/annoying sometimes.
    Aaaaaaand I totally agree; more books should be set in other countries’ school settings. I don’t read very many, but I’m not going to lie, I have no idea how ANY OTHER SCHOOLS WORK. When British books start talking about their school systems, my brain flies out the window. It is that confused. That it grows wings.
    Sorry about the looooooong comment…. But I loved your post! XD

    Liked by 1 person

    • YAYYY I’m so glad to hear that!! (And I also hope you’re doing well, after so long! 🙈❤️)
      Ughhh mandatory PE is so annoying oh my gosh. Haha that’s cool there are ways to get out of it at least!
      That’s true, I definitely think there are those types of people at most schools!
      Oh my god 9 hours of school ?! Even 8 hours is so much oh my god. I would go insane ahah. We had 6! Hm, that makes sense! I guess it depends on the person/their skills and goals? Hahah IB is NOT magical, it was kind of painful actually at the time. It stands for International Baccalaureate and basically made of advanced classes with some other requirements (like writing an extended essay, and specific courses) that gives you another certificate/diploma when you graduate high school. Was not super fun ahah, I was really stressed but it did help prepare for university more? 😂
      That does make sense! If there are a ton of people it would probably be better for everyone’s sanity to split the lunch periods ahah.
      Oh my god that sounds AWFUL. Blech. I’m very disappointed and disgusted on your behalf ahhh.
      25 minutes???! THAT’S NOTHING whattttt. That is utterly unfair!! That’s literally nothing.
      Ahaha right?! Definitely! It would be so interesting to learn more about other countries’ school systems!!
      No, I loved reading it so much! ❤ Thank you!

      Liked by 1 person

      • Ohmygoodness, I’m so misleading. We have 7 periods, not hours- they’re called hours, but none of them are actually an hour long, haha! Classes are 45 minutes, except for lunch of course, which is about 0. XD Depending on whether you have to stay for 8th period, school is 6.5-7 hours in total.
        Haha cafeteria food is still unfortunate and probably always will be.
        Honestly, I’m going to be on the lookout for if anyone ever deems it interesting enough to just flat-out explain British (or any other country) school systems, because that would be incredibly useful, not to mention entertaining!


  2. I am from Scotland so everything about American Schools in YA books is so confusing and surreal! We sadly do have mandatory PE, in my school anyway, and we have to take it until S4 (I think that’s the same as Year 10?) and our classes are always mixed boys and girls. We only use single desks for exams so they are a thing of fear. SCHOOL CHAIRS ARE SO UNCOMFORTABLE, maybe all schools ever have it as like a rule, you can’t be comfy and learn, maybe? My school has some comfy chairs but you have to admit to your teacher you have a sore butt or back or something to get to sit on them!! They are so sacred!!! We get 50 minuets for lunch, which is quite long. And we can eat in the cafeteria but it’s a bit gross, (though it does serve pizza 24/7) most people from my school leave at lunch time and either go home or buy something from the shops outside (McDonalds, Subway, Dominos and a bunch of shops in walking distance!!) I loved your post it was so funny!!!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Ahhh I can imagine! It must be so different ahah. Aw, that’s unfortunate! Ours was mandatory for a year, but that’s about it. I would’ve hated that ahah. YES THEY ARE SO AWFUL oh my gosh!! I guess if they were more comfortable I’d pay even less attention? But it’s still so painful aaah. Haha I can imagine they would be so treasured! That’s so great to have lots of places to eat outside, close to your school ahah. Thank you so much! ❤

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I LOVE THIS!!!! This is such a cool post! I’ve sort of thought about this sometimes but usually because of movies and T.V and stuff! I don’t actually live in America but some stuff is really unrealistic!

    Most people in my class and my year aren’t mean (obvs there are some but not really!) We all eat lunch at the same time as well and it’s only 45 minutes so it’s really weird! Adults really use a lot of hyperbole when writing about school!😂😂

    Liked by 1 person

    • AAA YAY THANK YOU!! ❤ That means so much to me! Hahah I know right?
      Oh that's good! Mean people should just stay fictional, honestly. Hahaha I know, fictional students seem to have so much time for lunch? 😂 They honestly do haha. I guess it just makes things easier? But it's so funny, as a reader.


  4. I’m equally interested in finding out so I’ll be browsing everyone’s comments hahaha It’s true that in YA everything is a carbon copy of everything soooo I’m not sure this is an American thing. European and Asian and all other books probably go by a lot of stereotypes too?
    Anyway, great questions and great post! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Ahaha there are so many different answers! It’s so interesting to read ahah. Trueee! So many of the books I read are typically set in the US that I’ve mostly just picked up on those. It would be interesting to learn of common stereotypes in European or Asian books! Thank you! ❤

      Liked by 1 person

    • Oh my gosh, your comment honestly means the WORLD to me, I want to cry aaah thank you so so much for this 😭❤️ I’ve been so overwhelmed with life and felt so guilty for abandoning the blogging community that I haven’t really interacted or returned to it. THANK YOU. I hope you’re doing well! 😘


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