“Young Adult Books Don’t Realize They Have that Power”: Reader Response to Ideology in Young Adult Dystopian Fiction
Date of Graduation
Doctor of Philosophy in Comparative Literature and Cultural Studies (PhD)
Comparative Literature and Cultural Studies
Susan M. Marren
Second Committee Member
gender studies, ideology, intersectionality, phenomenology, reader response, young adult fiction
The purpose of this research is to find out how readers interact with novels in the Young Adult dystopian genre. I will examine the ways in which readers resist the dominant patriarchal ideological discourses in the YA dystopian novel and how readers submit to this ideology. Through an interaction with the text, the reader produces oppositional, negotiated, or preferred meanings. I will argue that readers’ response to ideology in the YA dystopian novel is affected by their active participation in reader communities such as the Bookish community online.
YA dystopian fiction was highly popular in the early 2010s, but the genre has since experienced a steady decline in popularity. Despite the fact that fans of the genre are now flocking to YA fantasy and YA sci-fi, YA dystopia remains an important genre for them. YA dystopia has often been lauded for addressing serious and difficult topics such as the future of our planet and the fallout of war, disease, and other calamities. YA dystopia has also popularized the “Girl on Fire” trope of a fierce female protagonist, who performs a traditionally masculine gender role. However, YA dystopian novels also operate under tight constraints due to their implied adolescent reader. Although the YA dystopian genre promotes a progressive narrative to its reader that suggests that teenagers can start rebellions and young female characters can fight just as well as their male counterparts, this genre also contains an overwhelmingly heteronormative and conservative message. I conducted interviews with readers of YA dystopia to find out what appeals to them about this genre and what drives them away. The hermeneutical phenomenological research study conducted for this project has unearthed findings that pointed to the way the publishing industry underestimates the YA reader.
Sarma, Z. E. (2022). “Young Adult Books Don’t Realize They Have that Power”: Reader Response to Ideology in Young Adult Dystopian Fiction. Graduate Theses and Dissertations Retrieved from https://scholarworks.uark.edu/etd/4546