A [Brief] History of Young Adult Fiction (YA)



YA is a nebulous term, and scholars are still in the process of defining what it is and who it is for. Campbell (Campbell’s Scoop: Reflections on Young Adult Literature, Scarecrow Press, Lanham, 2010) writes, ‘the central theme of most YA fiction is becoming an adult, finding the answer to the internal and external question, “Who am I and what am I going to do about it?”’ (p. 70). Trites (Disturbing the Universe: Power and Repression in Adolescent Literature. University of Iowa Press, Iowa City, 2000) argues that the experience of navigating institutional power hierarchies—whether that is in families, schools, the government, religion, identity politics, etc.—is at the heart of YA. Trites draws upon different concepts of power, conceptualising them within adolescent literature Foucault (The Archaeology of Knowledge and the Discourseon Language. Pantheon, New York, 1972). This Foucauldian negotiation with institutional hierarchies is also one that YA authors of colour often undergo in the publishing industry. Issues of ‘race’ and racism intrude on the writing and publishing experiences of YA authors colour; even writing, against the grain, can be an act of resistance for them. As Bourdieu (The Field of Cultural Production: Essays on Art and Literature, Polity Press, Oxford, 1993) argues, ‘on the one side are the dominant figures, who want continuity, identity, reproduction; on the other, the newcomers, who seek discontinuity, rupture, differences, revolution’ (p. 106). Ramdarshan Bold brings together discussions about young adult literature from a variety of different disciplines—literary studies, education and pedagogy, publishing and book studies, library and information science, sociology, etc.—to create a comprehensive and compelling picture of how the field of literature has developed over the decades, and how it related to publishing, reading, and writing practices. Ramdarshan Bold explores contemporary trends in YA, detailing how inclusive (or diverse) literature aimed at young people developed and expanded in the UK.


Young adult literature YA Inclusive YA Diverse YA Power Hierarchies, identity UKYA 

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© The Author(s) 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University College LondonLondonUK

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