Young Adult (YA) literature has become mainstream in the twenty-first century; a few examples of popular YA novels are Twilight by Stephenie Meyer, The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins, and The Fault in Our Stars by John Green. This rise in popularity is correlated with a rise in online social movements such as #WeNeedDiverseBooks and #OwnVoices, which advocate for increased and more accurate representation of marginalized identities. This project explores online reader responses to the representation of disability in YA literature. Abbye Meyer states that “critics have neither taken into consideration the ways in which disability and young adult literature interact nor the kinds of power these interactions produce” (12), despite the fact that disability, particularly mental illness, is pervasive in YA literature (16). While the representation of disability in YA literature has improved in recent years, most representation still perpetuates negative stereotypes and tropes. I’m interested in how YA readers are engaging with disability tropes and how they’re discussing this representation in online communities such as Goodreads, BookTube, Bookstagram, and BookTok. In the current participatory culture of digital media, YA readers are shaping the YA genre in new and exciting ways. The goal of my dissertation is to investigate how YA readers engage with disability representation and to establish how these online discussions demonstrate a shifting relationship between readers, authors, and the YA publishing industry.
Alicia Latimer (she/her) is a PhD candidate in the Department of English Language and Literature. She completed a BA in English and an MA in English Rhetoric and Communication at the University of Waterloo. Alicia’s main areas of research include disability studies, Young Adult literature, and digital rhetoric. She is currently pursuing a Certificate in University Teaching from the Centre for Teaching Excellence.
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