YA Realism as Remedy: A Realm of Hope

  • Janine Barnett-Phillips

    Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


    This thesis argues for greater instrumentalisation of Young Adult (YA) realism in secondary schools. I argue for its inclusion in the curriculum but, more specifically, for its use as part of intervention programmes that allow young people to discuss a range of emotional and mental health difficulties in a safe space.

    Chapter One introduces the central research questions and methodology. Chapter Two provides an overview of the relationship between ‘Realism’ and ‘realistic fiction’ so that the work is situated within Literary Studies. Acknowledging that ‘reality’ in fiction can only be represented within the conventions of narrative structure, the thesis provides a definition of YA realism: it is an artistic representation of a variety of adolescent experiences that could occur in the real world, a fictionalisation of the feasible. Because certain YA material is treated in ‘realist’ mode, controversies often erupt so some of those issues will be foregrounded here.

    An overview of the evidence that reading can have a positive impact on well-being is provided in Chapter Three and a discussion about hope and why storytelling matters should help to explain why: YA realism can be a remedy. In Chapter Four, I argue that endings of these books are important and leave the readers of a realm of hope. An analysis of these novels from this standpoint could provide the narrative solution to concerns about certain aspects of YA realism and allay any fears that the books are inappropriate. The chapter offers an analysis of: Melvin Burgess’s Junk (1996); Jay Asher’s Thirteen Reasons Why (2007); Stephen Chbosky’s The Perks of Being a Wallflower (1999) and Angie Thomas’s The Hate You Give (2017). Each section explores the authors’ depiction of hope and positivity in the context of the adolescent experiences of sexuality, prejudice, identity, bullying, rejection, suicide, rape and abuse.

    The final chapter reflects on the writing of my own YA novel, Asterix Clementine, as well as the well-being workshops that I currently deliver to young adults in schools in Wales.
    Date of Award2023
    Original languageEnglish
    SupervisorBarrie Llewelyn (Supervisor) & Diana Wallace (Supervisor)

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