The Magicians by Lev Grossman
The Magicians by Lev Grossman is the first in a 3-book series.
It appears to be a take-off on the classic tale of children going through a wardrobe to Narnia and becoming Kings and Queens. Whereas, in The Magicians, a group teenagers who attend a special school to learn Magic (no similarity to Hogwarts), enter another world based on a book series of the Chatwin children called Fillory, and they too (some of them), want to be Kings and Queens.
But the characters do grow on you. Quentin Coldwater is invited to take a test to get into the school. So is his friend Julia, who fails (and is not happy). Their other friend James doesn’t even get an invitation. Quentin flourishes at the school, and meets a new friend Alice. In their 3rd year they are sorted into houses (sounds like Hogwarts again). There they meet Eliot, Josh, Janet and Penny. They end up in Fillory, but things with the Chatwins and Fillory are not exactly what they thought.
It is a rather dark book as these young adults are very unhappy in their own lives and Fillory seems to be their hope for salvation. Although the characters are interesting (albeit a bit depressing, and prone to alcoholism), I prefer Narnia, I think. Then again….
Favorite Quote from The Magicians: “[F]or just one second, look at your life and see how perfect it is. Stop looking for the next secret door that is going to lead you to your real life. Stop waiting. This is it: there’s nothing else. It’s here, and you’d better decide to enjoy it or you’re going to be miserable wherever you go, for the rest of your life, forever.”