The YA Novel in the Digital Age

  • Author / Creator
    Bright, Amy L
  • Recent research by Neilsen reports that adult readers purchase 80% of all young adult novels sold, even though young adult literature is a category ostensibly targeted towards teenage readers (Gilmore). More than ever before, young adult (YA) literature is at the center of some of the most interesting literary conversations, as writers, readers, and publishers discuss its wide appeal in the twenty-first century. My dissertation joins this vibrant discussion by examining the ways in which YA literature has transformed to respond to changing social and technological contexts. Today, writing, reading, and marketing YA means engaging with technological advances, multiliteracies and multimodalities, and cultural and social perspectives. A critical examination of five YA texts – Markus Zusak’s The Book Thief, Libba Bray’s Beauty Queens, Daniel Handler’s Why We Broke Up, John Green’s The Fault in Our Stars, and Jaclyn Moriarty’s The Ghosts of Ashbury High – helps to shape understanding about the changes and the challenges facing this category of literature as it responds in a variety of ways to new contexts. In the first chapter, I explore the history of YA literature in order to trace the ways that this literary category has changed in response to new conditions to appeal to and serve a new generation of readers, readers with different experiences, concerns, and contexts over time. Chapter Two explores the presence of extensive intertextuality and intermediality in contemporary YA novels as one type of response to new contexts through an examination of The Ghosts of Ashbury High and Beauty Queens. The third chapter investigates two examples of multimodal YA novels, that is, novels that include both texts and images, yet in a way that retains a high ratio of text to image. The Book Thief and Why We Broke Up are exemplary texts through which to analyze this relationship. Chapter Four moves outside of the YA text itself in order to understand how paratextual materials function in the twenty-first century. Authors John Green and Daniel Handler/Lemony Snicket have created a rich paratextual space in which to explore the role of the author in contemporary YA. While my dissertation explores YA literature in the twenty-first century, it also examines its readers. Chapter Five turns to the adult readers of YA to ask: If YA literature is a category aimed at teenage readers, then how do we conceive of this category today when it is read overwhelmingly by adults? A conclusion explores the implications of these concepts on the future of YA literature, and discusses the difficulty of examining a category in flux, one that continues to adapt to contemporary social and technological contexts.

  • Subjects / Keywords
  • Graduation date
    Fall 2016
  • Type of Item
  • Degree
    Doctor of Philosophy
  • DOI
  • License
    This thesis is made available by the University of Alberta Libraries with permission of the copyright owner solely for non-commercial purposes. This thesis, or any portion thereof, may not otherwise be copied or reproduced without the written consent of the copyright owner, except to the extent permitted by Canadian copyright law.