Girls in Transition: The Emerging Role of the Female Heroine in Best-Selling Young Adult Novels in The United States From 2003 to 2013

Keeler, Brettellen [Browse]
Senior thesis
111 pages


Yeung, King-To [Browse]
Princeton University. Department of Sociology [Browse]
Class year
Summary note
Within the last twenty years, the production of “young adult” (YA) novels has increased rapidly, flooding the shelves from bookstores to grocery stores in the United States. These books target individuals from the ages of twelve to twenty; young people who are “particularly vulnerable to the stories they hear and read,” (Probst 1988) and “view characters in YA novels as living and wrestling with real problems close to their own life experiences as teens” (Rogers 1997). This research looks at the content of these novels with a specific focus on representations of femininity in order to evaluate the messages being communicated to this “vulnerable” population. It examines more specifically a) the emerging role of female heroines within the young adult genre, b) how the role is being represented, c) how, if at all, this has changed from previous representations, and d) where this representation falls within feminist or anti-feminist dialogues. Through the close-reading narrative analysis and qualitative exploration of eleven best-selling YA books from the most recent decade, the study focuses on three main themes: “love,” “feminism/femininity,” and “the burden of empowerment.” It finds these themes to expose a conflict between traditional female ideals and progressive ones; requiring a renegotiation of previously understood gender roles and indicating a potential societal shift in feminine values.

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