© 2019

Constructing the Adolescent Reader in Contemporary Young Adult Fiction


Part of the Critical Approaches to Children's Literature book series (CRACL)

Table of contents

  1. Front Matter
    Pages i-xi
  2. Elisabeth Rose Gruner
    Pages 25-49
  3. Elisabeth Rose Gruner
    Pages 141-171
  4. Back Matter
    Pages 185-192

About this book


This book examines the way young adult readers are constructed in a variety of contemporary young adult fictions, arguing that contemporary young adult novels depict readers as agents. Reading, these novels suggest, is neither an unalloyed good nor a dangerous ploy, but rather an essential, occasionally fraught, by turns escapist and instrumental, deeply pleasurable, and highly contentious activity that has value far beyond the classroom skills or the specific content it conveys. After an introductory chapter that examines the state of reading and young adult fiction today, the book examines novels that depict reading in school, gendered and racialized reading, reading magical and religious books, and reading as a means to developing civic agency. These examinations reveal that books for teens depict teen readers as doers, and suggest that their ability to read deeply, critically, and communally is crucial to the development of adolescent agency.


Young Adult fiction Literacy Education #WeNeedDiverseBooks Citizenship

Authors and affiliations

  1. 1.RichmondUSA

About the authors

Elisabeth Rose Gruner teaches English at the University of Richmond, USA, where she has served as Director of the First-Year Seminar Program and Academic Advising Resource Center as well as Associate Dean of Arts & Sciences. Her research has been published in various journals and edited collections.

Bibliographic information


“Books for young adults address many topics of key importance to their adolescent readers.  In this study, Elisabeth Gruner considers the vital topic of reading itself, as it features in different genres of YA novels.  In an era of changing literacies, Gruner’s original and careful consideration of how we read in different settings and for different purposes offers an exciting new lens on the significance of fiction and the importance of articulating what we think we are doing when we read.” (Dr Margaret Mackey, University of Alberta, Canada)

“In this accessible and smart resource for scholars of young adult literature, Gruner draws upon well-regarded titles across multiple genres to center on the ways in which reading as a process and practice create opportunities for agency among the characters contained in these tales. She values teen readers, both fictional and those living beyond the pages of the stories they read, as capable, sensitive, and powerfully positioned citizens in our current social and political landscape.” (Professor Wendy Glenn, University of Colorado Boulder, USA)

“Teachers know that young children learn to read and older children read to learn. In Constructing the Adolescent Reader in Contemporary Young Adult Fiction, Elisabeth Gruner complicates this truism, revealing how a jubilantly diverse span of authors and novels depict adolescents reading to learn to read deeply, an essential skill for navigating texts, young adulthood, and our challenging times. Literary scholars and educators alike should heed Gruner's expert brief for the essential value of deeper reading.” (Rebecca Steinitz, high school literacy consultant and author of Time, Space, and Gender in the Nineteenth-Century British Diary)

“Elisabeth Rose Gruner’s Constructing the Adolescent Reader in Contemporary Young Adult Fiction is an elegant inquiry into the who, what, where, and why of how adolescent characters are depicted as readers in YA literature. In chapters that cover the school story, fairy tales and romance, race, magic, and the political, Gruner analyzes how deep reading, empathetic reading, skeptical reading, and communal reading engage the implied reader’s agency. Ultimately, Gruner identifies how YA authors can position reading as a political act that is especially attuned to the collective good. Constructing the Adolescent Reader in Contemporary Young Adult Fiction is a searingly insightful page-turner – itself a story – about the compelling importance of the reading process as it is depicted in YA fiction.” (Roberta Seelinger Trites, Distinguished Professor of English at Illinois State University, USA, and author of Twenty-First-Century Feminisms in Children's and Adolescent Literature (2017))