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Lifting the Silence: Ethical Representation of Mental Illness in Contemporary Young Adult Fiction

Young adult (YA) fiction is a fast-growing area of literature that is constantly responding to commercial pressures and the demands of its growing audience. Although it has a large commercial popularity, the critical focus on YA literature is lacking in some areas. As YA literature expands and increasingly engages with more complex issues, such as mental illness, there is a need for rigorous analysis of the ethical issues and questions raised by this fiction. In answering recently scholarly calls for critical analysis of YA literature, this thesis considers two novels that fall under the often-used label of the “problem novels”—Neal Shusterman’s Challenger Deep (2015) and Sophie Kinsella’s Finding Audrey (2015)—in order to explore ethical representation of mental illness in YA fiction. The discussion is informed by the scholarship of Wayne C. Booth, whose The Company We Keep: An Ethics of Fiction foregrounds the ethical responsibilities of both writer and reader, and Mike Cadden, who seeks to improve the power dynamic between reader and writer through the use of double-voiced discourse theory. This thesis is a creative practice thesis and the exegesis will be followed by a YA novella narrated by a teenage girl attempting to recover from an anxiety disorder and regain control of her life. The creative component is closely linked to the exegesis not only in terms of genre and theme, but also in its engagement with ethical issues. The creative component highlights that ethical representation is possible and beneficial, but also reveals that double-voiced discourse is a challenging theory to apply as it requires the writer to constantly step back from the narrative in a way that disrupts immersion in the creative process.
Type of thesis
Thomas, L. (2017). Lifting the Silence: Ethical Representation of Mental Illness in Contemporary Young Adult Fiction (Thesis, Master of Arts (MA)). University of Waikato, Hamilton, New Zealand. Retrieved from https://hdl.handle.net/10289/11180
University of Waikato
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