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.

SIGH.

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…………………

¯\_(ツ)_/¯

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…

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

  1. Great post, I’m from Scotland and we had to take gym until our second last year but you were only graded in it if you picked it as one of your exam subjects. Sometimes the classes were mixed sometimes they weren’t.
    I’d never heard of a school having different lunch periods untill I started reading books about school kids in America, we also didn’t have single desks 😀😀

    Liked by 2 people

    • Oh, that’s interesting! I’ve never heard of having an exam in a phys ed class before, or having the choice for it to be graded or not!
      I know! I’ve never come across a school with different lunch periods haha in real life. Oh, really?? That’s cool! It was mixed for me depending on the class, but a lot of the time we had single desks haha.

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  2. Not an American here, and oh my god our educational system is sooo bloody different than yours! I’m guessing the American system is at least somewhat similar to yours? Mine is completely different haha.

    To begin with, we can’t choose our classes (gasp). We have preset courses and we have to attend all of them. That includes Math, English, Physics, Chem, PE, Arts, Music, Philosophy, Economics, Romanian lit (I’m a Romanian high schooler, hi hello), we have another modern language smh, and just a bunch of other shit? And we take them every year, they just get more and more difficult by the year (and I’ve looked over what Americans learn and we do stuff so much more difficult?? our 11th grade, for example, is the first year of uni in the US- with math at least…. where’s my justice???).

    Our cafeteria food is freaking shit tbh? And out lunch break is only 30 mins and the queues are always so big and our school is honestly like Hogwarts-large and dude it’s exhausting I got lost so many times in my first 2 weeks. I always have the samc classmates, too. It’s because we’re assigned to classes and unless we wanna switch, we’re always in a certain class, marked by year and a letter (9A for example).
    We don’t have AP, and I’m still suffering over that…I’d’ve literally taken them all.

    Okay haha oops? Sorry for the rant, I just couldn’t help but notice all the differences… Fun fact, I wanna attend college in the US haha let’s see how that works :’)

    Great discussion post! ❤

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    • Oh my gosh really? Yes, I imagine the American system is somewhat similar in certain aspects!

      Really?! That’s crazy! Do you have to fit in each of those subjects daily? (Is there even enough time in a day to do that lol) That sounds so overwhelming! It must be frustrating to have all these be required courses. Holy crap, really?! First year uni in grade 11?! 😱 Yikes, that sounds awful.

      Aw no! That sucks! 30 minutes is sooooo short what. Oh my gosh, I can imagine! I would get lost throughout the whole year lmao. Oh, that’s interesting! Does that mean, because all your subjects are set for you, that you’re with those classmates for all subjects?
      Oh, that’s a shame! But your curriculum seems to be teaching so far in advance compared to the US haha, I don’t think AP would match up with it? 😂 But they sound useful!

      Don’t worry haha this was super interesting to read! I’ve always been curious about schools outside of North America ahah. Ooh good luck!! ❤️ I think you definitely can do it.

      Thank you! 😊

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      • We don’t have all subjects daily but we do have 7-8 hours of classes every day. Yes we do have the same classmates for every subject which is pretty dope 😀

        Thanks, I hope I can make it! 💛

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  3. I can answer some of these. Every school is different but in NJ gym was mandatory every year until we graduated (hated it!); there are clicks in every school so yes there were mean girls and bullying (speaking from experience); AP courses are offered senior year and are voluntary; we did have elective courses to break up your standard English, math, history and science like wood shop, home economics, art etc; we did have those uncomfortable desks and as a left handed student they sucked!; lunch was horrible, with processed foods but I hear they now have healthier options; lunch was about a half hour and since I didn’t eat lunch I would go to the library and read.

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  4. OMG! OMG! OMG! I get to weigh in on this as a non-American and I am sure many US people won’t agree with my answers, but I will answer them regardless. When I was 15, I went to High School in the US (Oregon to be more exact) for a semester, so I can totally talk about these things even if I didn’t go through it for years.
    1. Physical Ed was not mandatory at my school. Not sure how that is with other schools, but I didn’t have to go.
    2. We had mean girls, but not like in the books and movies at all. Their specialty was being suuuuuper sweet to everyone on the surface and then talking smack behind their backs. They could be quite judgy. So, I think there’s people like that everywhere, but not necessarily to the degree they are portrayed in fiction.
    3. I only had 4 courses while I was there, which was very weird for me. The entire school system was weird for me to be honest. I was used to having 12 different classes per semester but here I just had 4. Those were Geometry, International Lit, Drawing & Painting and Biology. I also had like a free period to study every now and then.
    4. I am not sure I knew anyone in AP classes.
    5. I think the lunch hours vary at huge schools, because it would be too many people at once if they all had lunch at the same time. At least that’s what I’ve heard, but my school just had one lunch hour.
    6. Cafeteria food .. never tried it, I always had a packed lunch, but I remember it being very unhealthy.
    7. I think I only shared classes with 2 or so people, but I knew a lot of friend groups who arranged their schedules at the beginning of the semester to share as many classes as possible.
    8. Honestly can’t remember. I think it was around an hour.
    9. Seats were indeed not comfortable. That’s a thing that could really be talked about more.
    10. Uhm … sooo … I never studied for anything the entire time I was in the US. I had to prep like 2 presentations which was annoying, but I half-assed them anyway. Homework wasn’t really a thing most of the time, except for reading a book. (I always was done with my maths homework before I even got home) I got As for Geometry, Lit and Drawing but closer to a C in Biology. To be fair, the terminology is very difficult for a non native speaker, because even if someone explains it to me, I might not understand the explanation.
    Okay, so that was my take on the subject. I am SO sorry for this very long comment haha

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  5. Okay at my school you only need one PE credit and most people get it over with freshman year, so yeah, weird. But they were always CoED, except for changing, obviously.
    Maybe it’s just that we have a big school but mean girls aren’t super prominent ? I feel like they don’t really impact my life.
    Okay so my school has only one lunch period but some schools in my county have multiple. It is because our schools are so large and overcrowded that they can’t fit them all in one cafeteria, but we have open lunch so we can go off campus and it isn’t a problem.
    The friend one, though. Why do I never have any friends in my class??

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  6. I went to high school in American and taught in American high school for 12 years. An overall thought, I think American authors will often choose a US HS setting because that’s what they know, but now onto your questions.
    1. Every HS I am familiar with had a 4 year pays ed requirement. Hated it!
    2. Yes, mean people are everywhere.
    3. There are other courses, but most schools require 3 – 4 years of those subjects. So, maybe that is why they are oft mentioned in books.
    4. AP used to be a smaller subset of students, but many schools have increased the number of AP offerings, and encourage more students to take the classes. When I was in HS, really only seniors took AP classes. When I was teacher, it was mostly juniors and seniors, and after I left teaching, my sister started teaching AP classes for sophomores.
    5 and 8. I went to a small school, and there were multiple lunch periods that were a full period (40 mins). One school I worked in had 4 lunch periods which were 23 mins each, and the other school had 2 lunch periods that were 30 mins (the kids were eating the hallways, but we did it in 2 lunch periods).
    6. The food was not great at any of these schools, but I knew someone, who worked at a private school with an amazing menu.
    7. Scheduling is all about luck, but sometimes you can try to switch classes.
    9. No, the seats are not comfortable, especially if you are short like me or too tall.
    10. HS was so easy for me. I didn’t know what hard work was until I went to engineering school.

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  7. I know this is a complaint/rant post, but it made me laugh a little. Maybe the whole high school setting is overdone though YA is for teens and school is a big part of life at that age. Anyway, regarding your points above, I think it depends on the school and one’s experience. I went to the same high school as my older sis and younger bro (we didn’t all attend at the same time), but I had a lot more fun there than either of them I think. My sis will probably think high school is as horrible as it’s usually described in YA novels. But for me:
    1. I think phys. ed. was only for grade 9 too and we could choose what we want to take so we didn’t have to take a phys ed. class we’d hate. I took dance and had fun with it.
    2. There were cliques, but I don’t recall any mean/horrible students like I see in YA novels. But I think that depends on each individual’s high school experience.
    3. There were some really cool courses at my school, like forensics because that was back when CSI tv shows started airing. I almost got into law enforcement because of that class to become some sort of forensic detective.
    4. At my school, it depended on the AP class, but I don’t think it was more that 20/24 of us in AP English. AP math classes had way less, like 10 people or something.
    5. Some schools have different lunch times and I think my school started incorporating different lunches later, probably by the time I was a senior. I think it was to limit fights or something.
    6. YES!!! The food was horrible!!! I ate cafeteria food once. After that, my friends and I either sneaked off campus to get food or ask a senior to get us something or just ate snacks.
    7. I always wondered this too because all my friends had classes together. I was always the odd one out, which is probably cause I took weird classes like forensics and the AP class too. It was so unfair.
    8. I forgot how long lunch was but it was long enough to sneak off campus, jump a fence, and walk 5 mins to a restaurant to get food and get back in time to quickly eat it soo…maybe 45mins, but I really don’t remember.
    9. Ditto. Seats were uncomfy.
    10. Umm… yea, studying and handing in assignments on time is important but some teachers gave so many opportunities to make up for late things that sometimes it was hard to take them seriously. I was one of those peeps who did everything at the last minute.

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  8. The seats you showed in the picture are EXACTLY the same seats I had at my high school. Also, everyone had the same lunch time at my high school, but I went to private school so it’s a bit different. Also I didn’t have to worry about gym past grade 10, but that’s mostly because I took a sport and sports made it so you didn’t have to take pe in later grades. Ap classes are really common I took about 5 during my time in high school and you would proabably be suprised at how few didn’t take at least one, but then my school was really small so it could be different at other schools. Also lunch was always too short… I’m pretty sure I remember mine being about 30 mins. So… yeah not much time to do anything but eat.

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  9. This is awesome post. some things I observed as well like, same classes with group and that English teacher one. I’m Indian and we have very different education system and even some States or schools have different disciplines and courses. Gym class was never there in my School. Let’s just there is lot of differences and that’s why education system in other countries always fascinates me.

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  10. I’m super old and it’s been years since I’ve been in high school, but this is fun and I’m from the US so I’m going to answer your questions anyway.

    1. I distinctly remember having to take PE for at least 3 out of 4 years. I honestly don’t remember if I took in my senior year, but I could be wrong. And it was ALWAYS mixed. I’ve never heard of separating boys and girls.
    2. Yes, definitely mean girls (and jerk boys). I don’t know if there was actual drama since I didn’t interact with them, but the clique absolutely existed.
    3.Plenty of electives! Maybe books just don’t focus on them because they’re not the same wherever you go? And since most people are familiar with basic science/math/english it feels safer for writers to stick to those subjects?
    4. I’ve literally never heard of the IB program before in my life? But I felt like there were definitely a decent number of students in AP classes, it didn’t really feel that unusual to hear it thrown around so often. My AP English class was always crammed full, but I wouldn’t know about the other AP classes.
    5. This one actually surprises me too and I think it might be a new thing? I know they also have this new system in a lot of schools where you take half your classes on Mon/Wed and then the other half Tues/Thurs and then Friday is…I don’t know. It boggles my mind and I’m SO glad I didn’t have to go through that! Also, my school never had a cafeteria, just a quad.
    6. Yes. Nasty and unhealthy.
    7. I think this might just be a book thing since the plot can actually happen. Otherwise it’d be pretty boring, no?
    8. I think maybe 30-45 minutes…but really, I don’t remember constantly feeling rushed by it. Unless I had to buy food, then yeah, that sucked. But usually I brought my own and it was fine?
    9. We had the same seats!
    10. Haha, that I base fully on poor writing, not an accurate reflection of US schools at all (or at least the one I went to). Though honestly, sometimes I look back at high school and ALL the clubs and junk I was a part of and how much time it took and then all my classes and I’m just like…wtf? How did I manage THAT!???

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  11. OMG SAME AMERICAN SCHOOLS IN YA ARE A NEXT LEVEL FANTASY WORLD!
    I went to school in Canada (Heyyyyy) and when I read YA books which are mostly set in the US like you said, I asked many of these questions too. The gym one is the most cliche of them all! But what stumps me the most is that they have 7 periods in a day. Like, “I’ll see in 5th period, Sally.” or “I have English 6th period,” I could barely survive the four periods I had to do everyday here and they are telling me that they have 7 periods. How long are classes? Naaahhh, I’ll stick to my Ontario Education system. *sips from a Tim Hortons cup*

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  12. AMERICAN TO THE RESCUE! (b/c we all know there’s nothing more American than believing you’re the savior of the world *massive eye roll*)

    I should probably note that I live in/attended a public high school in the second wealthiest county in the US and also the county that has consistently ranked as having the best public schools in the US, so those two things may make a *massive* difference for a few of these questions

    1. Is phys ed mandatory for all years of high school?–Idk about other schools, but at my high school we were only required to take PE/health for the first two years and then we were (blessedly) FREE!!!

    2. Are there mean girls at every high school?–This 100% varies by school but there weren’t really any at my high school. Everyone at my high school was honestly genuinely nice. That’s not to say we didn’t have our spats or that there weren’t people who disliked each other, but for the majority of the time when people disliked each other, they’d just stay out of each other’s way and be polite and civil if they ever had to work together. That being said, while I wasn’t popular *per se,* I was well known and well liked at my high school, so maybe I’m not the best person to make judgements? But from my perspective, we all got along fine and generally most all of the really popular kids were genuinely nice b/c why would we all glorify someone who wasn’t? (lthat would be insanely stupid and counterproductive lol)

    3. Do you ever have courses aside from english/math/science/history??–Yes. I was an MYP and then an IB student, which I’m guessing you know about the standard set of courses required for that since you’re Canadian. A unique feature of public high schools in my county was that if you wanted to take a course that your high school didn’t offer, they’d bus you to another school in the county that offered that course during school hours. Some of my friends bussed to other schools to take cooking courses or Tagalog courses or dance courses, among others.

    4. How many people usually take AP classes anyway?–This definitely varies by school. My school was one of the rare IB schools (not just in the county or state, but in the country) and I’d estimate that about 35-45% of the entire student population was either full IB or IB certificate students who took 4 or more IB courses.

    5. Do people really have different hours for lunch time?–This may vary by school, but at my high school we did. I’m guessing that this may vary based on 2 factors: student population size and literal cafeteria size. In the US not all counties have the same number of public schools. For instance, my county (which has a large population b/c it is literally right next to the major city of Washington, DC) has 22 public schools, meanwhile I’ve visited counties in rural Virginia which only have 1 or 2 schools. I say this to say that public schools are often catering to vastly different student population sizes. Even though my high school was the smallest of the 22 high schools in my county (my graduating class was 300), we still needed 3 separate lunch periods to be able to accommodate all students b/c there was no way the entirety of the student population could fit into our cafeteria. Our cafeteria was also a medium size, comparatively. Our school building was upgraded in the 90s, but even still our cafeteria was by no means gigantic. And, to my knowledge, many schools in the US have buildings which are from the 50s, 60s, and 70s which haven’t since been upgraded or refurbished. So that definitely could affect number of lunch periods.

    6. Is cafeteria food really that bad?–*Yes.* The US is known to have some of the worst, most unhealthy food in our school cafeterias in the world. Most every public school gives out pre-prepared food that is either packaged or heated up from being a frozen meal. Which is *disgusting*. But more than that, our cafeteria food is undeniably unhealthy. My school had option between a “healthy” lunch (i.e. packaged salad or a breakfast burrito, a fruit, and a cookie) or another meal, such as spaghetti, pizza, a type of sandwich, or the like plus chips and a “desert” like a cookie or a popsicle. And, from what I’ve heard from college friends, those were some *healthier* options than most schools.

    7. How do groups of friends just happen to have so many classes together?–Definitely not, although if you’re an IB or AP student and your friends are too, then you’re likely to have more classes with them then you would otherwise. But even still, my best friends weren’t in all of my classes. That being said, I did have at least one friend (usually more) in every class simply because I’m an extrovert and I don’t like feeling alone so whenever I’m in a place without my established friends, I just make new friends. 🤷🏽‍

    8. How long is your lunch??–My high school’s lunch period was 30 minutes (which was awkward b/c our class periods were generally 1.5 hours long meaning that at least twice a day we’d be interrupted by a bell that didn’t apply to us ringing)

    9. How comfortable are your seats?–We had the exact same seats you showed in this post, save for in our science classrooms (where we had standard lab tables and stools or chairs) and our band, orchestra, and choir rooms, which just had free standing plastic chairs and no desks. So…pretty uncomfortable.

    10. Report cards… exams… studying… death… is that not required to succeed high school?? God, I wish it had been that way! lol

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  13. This was really an interesting read mainly because it had me thinking back to my highschool days, I can’t remember too much but do remember some. But also because it will make me think about my characters and the schools when I write my own stories.
    To answer some of the questions, our lunch was between 20-30 mins I believe, it never felt long enough. But our schools also had breakfast. Back to lunch, we had 1st, 2nd, and 3rd lunch. If you had 3rd lunch you hated it for obvious reasons. Mostly seniors got first lunch. Sometimes a class may get to eat lunch in class and watch a movie but not so often. the food was good some days, other days not so much. Certain days there were better choices for example on Tuesday they ordered pizza, which seemed to be everyones favorite lunch day. Another day might be a regular school burger, fries, maybe another choice. Sometimes if you didn’t have lunch money or on free lunch plan they served you a cold cheese sandwich…
    They also had a snack shack where you could buy chips, goldfish, juices etc because lunch mainly served milk in different flavors. We did have to take some classes but there were also some we could choose like creative writing, cooking, drama, web design, yearbook (yes that was a class I took as a senior and we worked on the yearbook) we had 5 periods I believe but other schools had more. classes would change every few months. Some schools had more fights and drama than others. Exams and studying is important, most people just didn’t do it. I’d study the few mins in between class switch right before that class and usually ace or get a pretty good grade. In my math class we often had group tests smh. And a lot if people copying each other.

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  14. Okay, I’m American, but technically I was homeschooled throughout high school, but for two years in middle school I went to a public school so I’m going to do my best at being accurate with what I remember from middle school and just general knowledge of the way high schools worked in my school district and other things I’ve heard from friends of mine who didn’t go to the same school as me.
    1. No. I only had to take it for one semester, (and I could choose which semester to take it in so I put it off until my last year and since I was homeschooled I could pretty much do anything so I picked archery cuz 1. It made me feel like Merida and Katniss and 2. NO RUNNING INVOLVED! :D) and I’m pretty sure it was the same for most of the high schools in my district. It might depend on the school though, like some you might need to take it for a whole year, but I don’t think I’ve ever heard of taking it every single year. You had to do that for all grade up until you got into high school, but not in actual high school.
    2. Kind of. I mean, there’s mean people everywhere, and people can be clique-y, but definitely not to the extreme like in all those movies. That’s just Hollywood drama as far as I know. And having a “Queen Bee” where one girl acts like she literally rules over the whole school and gets away with it is very unrealistic.
    3. Yes, but those four are the “main” courses that are mandatory. The rest are what we call electives. (In my middle school they were called exploratory, but that’s just what my school called it that’s not typical.) Like art, drama, choir, band, shop class, computer tech…blah blah blah. Stuff like that which you could choose whatever interested you. Most schools had 7-8 “periods” a day (the time slot where classes go) so the four main courses, lunch, P.E., and whatever elective you chose would fill up your schedule. And you could choose a different elective for each semester if you wanted to. Also, I don’t think I’ve ever heard of anyone around me actually having a “free period” at school. I read about them in books and thought they were a myth! XD I always wished my school had one but we never did.
    4. I have no idea. I never took any. And I don’t remember hearing them be all that common.
    5. Sometimes. It depends on the size of the school and how much space they have. My middle school did, and it wasn’t such a weird concept. Also the idea of just eating anywhere like in the hallways is extremely weird to me. I don’t remember anyone doing that. Probably because I’m pretty sure we would’ve gotten in trouble for it. Everyone had to eat in the cafeteria. It was probably a fire hazard for kids to eat in random places. Also if there was an emergency of some sort the teachers would want to know where everyone is. You would get in trouble if you weren’t where you were supposed to be.
    6. It wasn’t ever THAT BAD. It definitely was never as amazing as your school’s sounds, but I don’t think it was ever disgusting, like in fiction you hear about every school having this gross sloppy “mystery meat” but yeah, that’s not a real thing. School food is just mediocre at best, but I wasn’t afraid for my life while eating it. XD
    7. Ha ha, no. You are very lucky if you had at least one good friend in ONE class. But also this depends on the size of the school. If you went to a tiny school in a tiny town, of course you would have every single class with the exact same group of people.
    8. I think in elementary school I had about 45 mins to an hour for lunch? I just remember when I got to middle school I think it was about a half hour and I remember feeling SO RUSHED OMG. And all I was doing was eating and talking with friends in the cafeteria. We were middle schoolers, we weren’t going to go anywhere! Speaking of which, I’ve never really heard of anyone in my area actually regularly leaving campus during lunch to go get lunch somewhere else, I’m pretty sure that just doesn’t happen? But public transportation just isn’t really a thing here, and it depends on the school, but most of them are located on the outskirts of town, so I guess going into town where all of the restaurants are just doesn’t seem worth it because they wouldn’t have enough time? Idk, I’d just never heard of anybody I know ACTUALLY doing that. I thought it was a myth that only people in books do. XD
    9. All school chairs are uncomfortable. It’s just how it is. XD. Except a few schools in my district tried to put those chairs with those bouncy balls attached in a few of their classrooms, (I think it was supposed to help posture or something, idk.) But kids keep getting distracted and bounced on them during class so I think they got rid of them. XD Like, what else did they think was going to happen?!
    10. YES YES YES! If you hear anything to the contray it’s all LIIIIEEESSSSSS!!!! XD (I mean, it might differ more or less depending on the school like if you went to a really prestigious private school it would matter a lot MORE, but still you can’t be lazy and do literally nothing and graduate with a 4.0, that doesn’t happen.)
    Well, I hope this was helpful! But yeah it’s a little hard to distinguish because a lot of things depend on the schools themselves, but oh well, I did my best. 🙂

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  15. These are great questions! I think it would be awesome to be able to read about a greater variety of schools. As an American high schooler, I have seen many of these things. My school only required one year of PE and any others were considered electives. Also, we have a tons of AP and Dual Credit classes, which might be similar to IB (?) but I’m not certain. You can get college credit through a local college for much reduced price. We also only have 25 minutes for lunch, and there are five lunch shifts, and my school isn’t even that big. I think there are always mean people, but in different ways than are portrayed in books. I think many of the things in YA have some truth to them, but not 100%. Awesome post!! 😁

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  16. I love this post! I can only say what high school is like in Texas and my high school was a small early college, so I didn’t even have the typical US high school but still!
    1. Only 1 PE credit is necessary, but it wasn’t offered before then for stupid reasons so I had to take it as a senior. So I never second guess seniors being in gym class.
    2. There weren’t super mean girls but there was the group of girls who thought they were prettier and better than everyone else. They weren’t evil by any means just stuck up. However, my cousin was relentlessly bullied and attacked once by mean girls at a different school so those girls do exists.
    3. Every school and state has different schedule set ups and different courses available. Being I took a lot of college courses I had super weird class options. My English teacher actually was super chill. She was my all time favorite teacher.
    4. IB program?? Never heard of it. I took a few AP classes but I didn’t actually take the test for them because I was already getting college credits for my classes.
    5. & 8. Bigger schools have up to 4 different lunch hours. My small school had 1 hour long lunch. I had plenty of time to leave campus, eat, and get back with time to spare.
    6. The food provided by the school is pretty gross, only good thing was the tiny juice you could get for breakfast.
    7. I had at least a few people I knew in all my classes but it was a small school.
    9. Our seats weren’t connected to our desk but my whole school was trailers set up on a small lot.. it was as horrible as it sounds during the rain and cold.
    10. High school was probably the most stressful time of my life. I only had classes for a semester so I didn’t even get to have the whole year to bring up my grade. High school sucks..
    Sorry for the super long comment! I’m always interested in how schools work in other countries.

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  17. I have wondered about all of these as well, having gone to a Canadian high school (well, 7-12, but same thing). Our system required one gym credit for high school, but you could also get out of it by talking a health and careers type class. Our food was decent, but limited. Most people didn’t stay for lunch, either going home or going into town. Our lunch was an hour, so that was reasonable, and everyone had the same lunch time. Our school only had three options for advance classes as well, so not really a thing? No mean girls either – people who didn’t like each other, but we didn’t even really have cliques. That may have been because our school was small though.

    So yeah, if American high schools are as in YA books, they are a strange land I really don’t wish to visit.

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  18. This is a great post. In my high school, gym(or Physical Education as they made us call it) was mandatory all 4 years of high school. If you didn’t pass you wouldn’t be able to graduate.
    As for lunch, my school had 3 different lunch times. They were separated into “A lunch” “B lunch” and “C lunch” So no, we didn’t always have our friends during lunches, and it was about 30 mins for lunch.
    When it comes to courses, those 4 main courses are mandatory, but you can also choose electives. Our school had 6 periods per day and your classes would be different depending on the day.

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  19. This post is spot on and so funny! I mean, everyone is in an AP class and they always have compulsory PE. Like, whattttt? I know that I live in Aus, so it’s probably completely different, but the only thing I can relate to on this list is the tuckshop food, I once got raw chicken in my salad, it was baddd.
    But, the other things like PE, is crazy because it stopped being compulsory in grade 9 for me too. ANd, oh my god your desks look like hell. In most of my classrooms, the desks were just straight up a normal desk and a (not attached) plastic chair. But, in some of the more modern classrooms, we had bigger desks and rolly chairs.
    Also, yeah @ no 7. In my senior years, I think I had maybe 1 class with my friends. ONE, how do all these fictional Americans have all their classes with their bf/ friend group??? ALSO, on that note, why was it so easy for them to change classes?? If I wanted to switch classes, I had to have a note from mum, a signed form from my teacher (#awkward) and another signed form from the head of yr and head of the subject. It was a hellish experience.

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  20. This post is great! 😀 The whole P.E thing boggled my brain too! I went to Secondary School (*or high school. Saying high school feels weird) we had two different types of physical education or gym. We had your standard P.E and then we had “Games”…. bleuch. Games was essentially you being forced to take part in like hockey and rounders (both of which I am terrible at XD ) Our P.E Classes were always separated into boys and girls… You could choose to take P.E as a GCSE subject or you could drop it but everyone had to do “Games” until Year 11 (when we’re about 16) till we leave… and THEN we are free to go to college or sixth form or what not. Our points system kept changing so no one ever really knew what was happening, we didn’t know how the system worked and so we didn’t know what grades we needed to go further in education…. every one just kinda winged it 😀
    School in general was truly a nightmare…. every time I think about it I cringe and die a little inside.

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  21. i can only give you some insight from a european highschool… mimd you i was in highschool in 1998-2002…
    Gym/ p.e. was mandatory and awful. i had back problems, so didn’t have to participate the last 3 years, but all others had to

    mean girls: we got a bunch of them, yes. i never really had to interact with them thankfully but they were ever present

    classes with friends: during the first 2 years i had all classes with the same 30 people all the time, usually in the same room. exception was the language studies. some of us studied german, the others english
    last two years we had special classess and were divided into 6 groups per the whole years students.

    food and lunch break. there was no cafeteria in school. lunch break was nonexistent. we all had classes until 1.30 pm at least, some days till 2.45
    when the school day was gone, we went over to this other high school 5 min walk away and used their restaurant. the food was edible but only cuz it was a culinary high school… some friends who went to other schools got shitty food resemblung sludge 😂
    i ate at home most of the time cuz we couldn’t afford school food

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  22. OMG did I ghostwrite this post because I am ALWAYS confused about US high schools in books! Here in England our system is VERY different haha. We don’t even really have “high school” — for what would be the first two years (I think) we all study about 10 subjects for which we take national exams at the end, and after that some people go to sixth form/college where they study about 3 subjects for 2 years and have the same exams. A few people do IB instead of A Levels but it’s not very common — only particular schools do it!
    Alas, PE is compulsory until my final year of school… But nowadays we get to pick what sport do so that’s WAY nicer. Were your seats really like that??? We just have, like, tables in each classroom, not weird single desks haha.

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  23. Great questions! It really really depends on the region, program you’re in, and the size of your high school. This is coming from an IB student from an underprivileged school, just to give you context.

    1. At my school, PE was mandatory for 1 year, but students in the IB program are exempt from that because our graduation requirements are different. PE is co-ed.
    3. My school offered other stuff like Art, Culinary, band, chorus, computer science, video production, etc, but not everyone could take them. IB students have to drop all these extra courses when they start (unless they take art/ comp sci as their elective) but everyone else could take these at any point. Everyone takes 7 courses, unless they do Dual Enrollement (tech school). The majority of classes were full year. IB courses are 2 years long.
    The availability of IB really depends. In my region, it is only in white/wealthy schools. It was implemented in my high school and another underprivileged school because the district was trying to improve the school to avoid having to close. Many people at my school choose to drop out and take AP instead because they knew it was difficult and comprehensive, so I guess it also just depends on the person just as much.
    4. My high school was 2,500 people deep, but not a lot of people take AP classes (maybe ~100-200 each year?) and even fewer people pass, so there’s that. We also had the option of taking as many/few AP classes as we wanted.
    5. Since my school was pretty big, we had 2 lunch periods and they depended on the building you had your 5th period in. The IB program had all their classes on the same floor so IB students always ate with their friends. The freshmen and sophomores were relegated to specific buildings so most often upperclassmen and underclassmen didn’t mix for lunch. Generally people were with their friends unless they had an elective at that time.
    6. I can’t speak about the cafeteria food. I just know it wasn’t healthy and since lunch was so crowded it was common for people to not get lunch until the very last minute before class. All my friends and I brought our own lunches for all 4 years.
    7. You are totally right about it being less random, but that’s only if you’re following a traditional or AP route. IB students have all their classes laid out in advance for junior and senior years and at my school the program was only ~50 people per year so it was very very likely that you had classes with your friends.
    8. Our lunch periods were about ~25 minutes. Anyone in the library is skipping lunch and is probably reading, finishing assignments, or just wanting a less crowded area than the cafeteria.
    10. Coming from a student currently at an Ivy league school who was in the IB, it’s unrealistic as hell that they ace exams with minimal/no studying. Those are the type of students who IRL pass quizzes and unit exams, and fail the finals/AP exams. That or they cram at the very last second, which doesn’t really work. My friends and I were constantly, constantly studying. For any exam we were studying 10-40 hours (depending on how early we knew it was coming up). We stayed up late to finish homework and woke up at 4 most mornings to finish. (it was depressing tbh). We were often at tutoring and in study groups.

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  24. It’s always so interesting to me to see what non-US people think of how high school is portrayed in US book! As a former high school student, I feel that I am somewhat qualified to answer…
    1. Yes, a certain number of gym classes were required for you to graduate. I actually managed to get out of that (thank god) because I did two electives, French and orchestra, which didn’t leave me room for gym, and I also did sports outside of school, so all I had to do was take a test to exempt those credits. But that’s pretty rare.
    2. Yeah, the mean girl thing is pretty played up in fiction, in my experience.
    3. Classes are really confusing and I think different school to school, but the way mine worked was that you had core classes (English, math, science, history/social studies) and then two electives that you choose (or gym, like I mentioned). It’s really weird and confusing and even I don’t really understand it.
    4. AP classes are supposed to be really important for getting into a good college, and if you do well on the AP test you can get college credit that transfers over. But taking more than two AP classes at a time is pretty unrealistic. The most I ever took was three and I was dying and I hated it.
    5. Yep, there were different lunch periods because too many kids. My school had three different lunch periods and there still weren’t enough tables for everyone sometimes. It was a problem.
    6. Cafeteria food has a pretty bad reputation, and I think it does really vary. At my high school, it wasn’t awful (it wasn’t great), but I always just brought a lunch from home to avoid it.
    7. It wasn’t terribly likely to have all or even most of your friends in the same class, at least at my school. Usually maybe two or three friends in the same class was the norm. It would be pretty unusual to not know anyone in a class, though.
    8. 45 minute lunches??? Ours was 30 minutes!!! Woah.
    9. OH GOD CHAIR FLASHBACKS! I’d say the reason this isn’t brought up is because authors (adults) probably repress the horrible memories, like I just did until that image brought back a visceral reaction.
    10. Yeah, the not studying thing always really bothers me in books. I worked my ass off in high school, but these kids are skating by with the occasional study party where they do nothing but talk about whatever the current drama is??? Unrealistic.

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  25. omg I agree with all of this!!! Growing up in Canada, I assumed things would be similar but like I guess not??? The rotating lunch thing really gets me because that seems way more confusing? ALSO one of my biggest pet peeves is when characters don’t dedicate time to studying because that so unrealistic? Great post!!

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  26. I LOVE THIS POST HAHA & i’ll try my best to answer some of them!

    Obviously, YA authors exaggerate/manipulate many aspects of high school to suit their creative needs. YES high school requires a lot of studying and general misery, but for SOME REASON all YA MCs seem to fly school without doing ANYTHING whatsoever. And YES, the mean girls thing is definitely dramatized; they don’t congregate in the restroom and shoot people dirty looks over their shoulders while applying strawberry lip gloss xD (that’s a scene I’ve read all too many times in YA contemporary!)

    In my experience, taking AP classes/the IB program was a must. getting into a “prestigious” college is super, super competitive so I know a lot of people that would take 5-6 AP classes during their junior year (their third year of high school), and DOUBLE SCIENCES TOO which is actual torture

    ohmygod, I HATED PE so much, but then again I am a potato that sits around reading and drinking boba. At least at our school, PE is required for two years of high school!

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  27. Haha! I’m sure some of my fellow Americans have answered this already, but a lot of this is dependent on whether you’re in public school or private school, or at least that’s how it was for me (grades 9 and 10 were in public while 11 and 12 were at private). My main observation, though, is about lunch periods. So, in public schools, at least in SE Michigan, there are usually so many kids that you need like three lunch periods, ranging from 25 minutes to 35, depending on the day and what class you were in – because those classes were given different lunch periods based, I think, on subject. So all the language classes had the worst lunch because it was ‘split’ meaning half of the class came before lunch and half came after, so it was also the shortest lunch. But when you had lunch shifted because you didn’t have all your classes every day. On Monday, you had all seven classes. On Tuesday and Thursday, you had the three even classes (2, 4, 6) plus a ‘study hour’ (or a delayed start/free morning, that was awesome when it happened) while on Wednesday and Friday you had the four odd classes (1, 3, 5, 7) so your lunch depended on the day and shifted between relying on 4th and 5th periods. It was so hard to keep track of every semester (yes, we had semesters).
    Okay, rant over. I guess I’m still a bit more worked up about my lunches than I thought.
    But mostly American high schools are not portrayed suuuper accurately, at least not according to my experiences.

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  28. This post was amazing! And most of your questions are serious concerns I have too. I’m in India, and Indian high schools are nothing like the ones we read in books and watch in movies – but I always think are they really THAT different!??

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  29. HOLYHELLA!! There are a loooooooot of big big answers here. Imma gonna go as short as possible.
    1. Gym/PE classes we had until class 10 and yes, we had different teachers for boys and girls.
    2. Well, not exactly. It’s just how you said it. YA books overdo this trope too much!
    3. I had pretty CRAPPY English teachers in school too. I can definitely relate!
    4. Well, here in India we don’t exactly have AP classes. We just have the normal, mundane ones.
    5 & 8. Seriously? Then what’s the point of break/lunch! I think we had a 40 minutes break!! It always fell too short for us.
    6. Our cafeteria was not that awesome but not that bad either. But most of us had home-packed lunch, around 99.9% of the students…
    7. Again, in India the classroom system is different. All the students allotted in one class remain like that for the rest of the year. Different periods, different teachers come but it’s a fixed thing for us.
    9. Seats… we had benches with desks for 2 people each and they were pretty okay I guess. Most schools here have benches to suit 4 to 5 people.
    10. THIS. OKAY. THIS. YA books contain 1% studying and boom they are all brilliant students, that part of a teenager is almost completely neglected in books. In real life, it’s the opposite. At least it was for me!!

    Great post Analeeeee! ❤

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  30. Wow this is a great topic, I’ve actually talked to people about this quite a bit! I feel like American high schools in books are super, super stereotyped? I mean, I live in NZ and the education system is VERY different here, but like at my school there isn’t really any one “queen bee” or a bunch of super duper mean girls? There are the popular groups but like they aren’t overly mean to anyone.

    Over here, PE is mandatory for the first two years of high school (we have five). Of course there are people that take it, but I agree, if you hate the subject don’t take it! I actually think my school really has a lack of options compared to some overseas schools, but we do have lots of language subjects, media studies, drama, accounting and some others.

    We don’t have AP classes here, I really wish we did. If we want to do extension work, we usually just take the subject a year level above (this can get really complicated and also teachers generally don’t let you). So my experience on this isn’t really the same as US, but here there are hardly any people allowed.

    The different lunch hour thing isn’t something we have here, but I have heard of it in the US from people who live there! I think it’s something like say you have seven periods a day, and period 3/4/5 is lunch?? But don’t quote me on that.

    We don’t really have a full menu for canteen, but yeah the food isn’t terrible. It’s not that great either, but if you just want a popsicle or a snack it’s decent enough. Wedges on Wednesdays are amazing, and there’s always a mad rush to get to the canteen before they run out.

    I don’t have many classes with my friends this year, but before I had all my core classes with them. It’s interesting because I know some people who take all the same subjects, yet they don’t have all their classes together due to the weird timetabling system. I definitely agree that you don’t have most classes with most of your friends.

    My lunch is 50 minutes, but yeah I agree it’s like 10 minutes before I’ve actually settled down to start lunch. At my best friend’s school it’s 30 minutes long, but they get to finish 25 minutes earlier than us each day so… I’ve actually found that sometimes lunch can get boringly long??

    Wow, your seats sound HORRID!! I would hate that. Thankfully the seats here aren’t terrible, they’re cheap and plastic but good enough. In the science classes they’re all stools, which suck but it’s only one class so I can cope with that.

    When I was younger, I often managed to do well in exams and stuff without studying, but nowadays it’s a lot harder (also, I used to just memorise everything in class and parrot it back in tests. Now? I prefer zoning out). So I’d say that assumption in high school books it’s pretty inaccurate!

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  31. Yes high schools in ya are so unrealistic! And like, a lot of the time, the characters barely ever have any other scenes than like one class…like how? School takes up a major part of my life but that’s not reflected in books. As an American high schooler, I think most of your questions really depend on the school. At my school, PE is mandatory all 4 years unless you play two sports…but even if you do play two sports, you still have to wait until 11th grade to drop PE. I don’t know why, it’s so annoying??? The whole stereotypical “mean girl” thing doesn’t usually happen. And different lunch periods depend on the school too. I go to a small school, so the entire high school has lunch at the same time, but my friend goes to a huge school and he has last period lunch. My lunch period is 40 minutes and I FEEL YOUR PAIN! Also we have those same seats and they are annoying. Generally, I think it depends on the school, but I can safely say that most ya high schools aren’t very realistic.

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  32. I’m sure most (if not all) of your questions have already been answered, but yeah a lot of the stuff that you mention as being unrealistic actually is true for American high schools–at least the one I went to. The only one I’ll specifically address is IB. IB is a lot less popular in the United States, but I did actually go to a high school that offered AP, IB, and Honors classes–weird I know. It kind of shook out that the smartest kids took IB classes, the next smartest took AP, then Honors, and then everyone else just took regular classes. But yeah, even after going to college, nobody here really knows what the IB program is–everyone just did AP.

    Liked by 1 person

  33. It looks like a lot of people broke this down for you, so I won’t add too much other than I didn’t realize just how much “stereotypical” scenarios authors highlight about US high schools are actually relate-able/true.

    1) I was required as a high school student in New York to take gym classes every year (all four years). Although our classes COULD be co-ed, most girls opted for the easier classes like tennis/badminton/yoga and the guys tended to take weightlifting/soccer/flag football. So it really depended on your preferences.
    2) Yes there are mean girls, but not always as extreme as they portray in books. Most of the “meanness” was backhanded and quiet, as in, completely ignoring people you didn’t like (and then laughing about them at an exclusive party later that week)
    3) Yes we have classes outside the basics but those were “electives” and some would even require you to give up your lunch, which was bullshit so it didn’t happen. You rarely had room for electives until senior year anyway.
    4) Surprisingly, more and more people are taking AP classes because they can often be counted as college credits, which ultimately gets you out of taking those Gen Eds once you get to college.
    5) YES we had different lunch periods. It depended on how your schedule worked out (obviously). I remember one year I had lunch third period! Which was about 10 or 11 am… it was the earliest lunch period, and the worst.
    6) while the food wasn’t terrible…it wasn’t gourmet by any standards. It was edible. That is about all you can say about it.
    7) Everyone needs to take the same classes, so chances are you are going to have some classes with your friends. And in any case, you know most of the people in your graduating class, so regardless of whether you are with your BFFs or not, you usually know at least one person to sit next to.
    8) lunch was the same as all the other periods, I believe around 42-45 minutes
    9) yes, the seats are stupid uncomfortable
    10) high school was WAY too easy. I didn’t know how to study or work hard until I got to college. Boy that was a rude awakening.

    Liked by 1 person

  34. oh my goshhhhh YES THE CAF FOOD was actually heaven????? and I loved it!!!!!!!!!! I admit I had PB+J gram slams everyday so I’m not sure about the rest of the menu, but those things were chilled and really thick + crunchy?????? *says quietly* I smuggled…more than the two I was allowed….i took…five everyday xD i feel no shame I want more?????????

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  35. OMG! I just found out your blog and I can’t get enough of this ♥
    This is a BRILLIANT post and I lalso loved all the comments. Damn, now I’m gonna stay in the computer exploring new blogs… and it is all your fault! Good job ♥ I mean, who needs a life anyways?
    Following you right away 😉

    Liked by 1 person

  36. Great post! I never really thought about how American schools were portrayed in books before, but that is most likely because they are mostly realistic. I won’t answer the questions because I skimmed through the comments and there were lots of answers already. In general it seems that even within the US there is a lot of different ways schools are structured so you can probably assume everything is true somewhere 😀

    Liked by 1 person

  37. The moment I saw the title of this post I screamed ‘YES’ in my head because YES I TOO HAVE SO MANY QUESTIONS THE AMERICAN EDUCATION SYSTEM CONFUSES ME SO MUCH. JUST HOW DOES IT WORK??? Not just high school, but college?? Like I made an American friend who’s also an exchange student here in Manchester, and she tried to explain how college works to me and I’m still so confused lmao. Also she told me that until a few years ago they had to stand up and sing the anthem???

    Omg Analee you were free from P.E. after 9th grade?? Jealous! We had P.E. until winter break senior year. Also it was co-ed, kiiinda wish it wasn’t because almost all the boys in my class were SUPER COMPETETIVE and acting like we were at the Olympics or something while all of us girls were just chill and wanted to have a good time??

    I am SO curious about day rotation as well! Cause sometimes it looks like they have the same schedule each day??? I’m not just talking about books, movies and tv shows as well. Is it lazy writing or do they seriously have the same classes every day??

    At my school we used to have different lunch periods, but then in my senior year they had the brilliant idea to give the entire school the same lunch period, even though we had too many students for such a small building. It was HORRIBLE. Like I never ate in the cafeteria either because it was always loud, but now our usual spots were just so crowded too, that sometimes we’d have no place to sit like thanks

    WHAT ARE THOSE CHAIRS WHY DO THEY HATE YOU. Chairs in our classrooms were fine, but when we had to take exams in the gym we had reaaaaally uncomfortable chairs. Nothing like those death traps of yours haha, but they were diagonal or something?? You couldn’t sit up straight while working on your exam

    ALSO NUMBER 10 YES LIKE I GET THAT STUDYING MIGHT BE BORING FOR THE PLOT BUT JUST,, MENTION IT? I DUNNO?

    I think you can tell from my very long comment that I’m very passionate about this 😂

    Liked by 1 person

  38. 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

    Like

  39. 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!!!

    Like

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