Names & naming of characters

  • Names & naming of characters—purposes and functions

(idea: as a NYTBR, “Benjamin Alire Saenz’ and SoAndSo’s name choices establish Y for the reader, which would not happen if their characters were named Jose and Marcus.”)

  • Orphanhood (missing or disinterested parents)

(idea: Although the characters in John Green’s Paper Towns and Yvonne Ventresca’s Pandemic have parents, the fact that they are rarely mentioned signifies that teenagers need to find their own identity apart from their families.)

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  • Gender roles and social pressures

(idea: as a NYTBR, “Jason Reynolds’ X and Laurie Halse Anderson’s Y, though different genders with different personalities, each confront a life where they have to put aside established gender roles and be mother, father, sister, brother and friend all at the same time.”)

  • Protagonists in YAL different than protagonists in adult fiction because…

(idea: as a NYTBR, “If Nancy Garden’s Annie and Lois Lowry’s Jonas were adults they would be able to X in their world, but the fact that they aren’t makes them Y, and that is the goal of Young Adult literature after all.”)

  • Issues of social powers (or lack thereof) for young adult protagonists

(idea: as a NYTBR, “Suzanne Collins’ Katniss and Laurie Halse Anderson’s Hayley are each forced to play adult roles in their world, but their lack of Foucauldian power as mere teenagers puts each in an untenable position: they must act like adults but don’t have the toolsor authority of adults. As a result, when they act like the teenagers they are, readers often blame them for their fallibility.”)

  • The role of education in YA fiction

(idea: as a NYTBR, “Although YA narrators usually profess school to be an annoyance or interference in their lives, in A.S. King’s novels, A and B, school is in fact a defining characteristic in their lives that helps them to X.”)

  • The tall tale in YA fiction

(idea: as a NYTBR, “Although X and Y are both contemporary novels with 21st century concerns, their narrators’ quests and their A, B and C identify them updated versions of a tall tale.”)

  • Relationships from a boys’ or girls’ perspective

(idea: as a NYTBR, “Boy-meets-girl and girl-meets-boy are prevalent themes in Young Adult Novels, and for good reason. Teenage years are consumed with finding potential mates. But in LH Anderson’s X and Andrew Smith’s Y, the ways girl pursues boy and boy pursues girl exemplify the differences between boys and girls when it comes to love.”)

  • Storytelling and narrative (how a story is told)

(idea: as a NYTBR: Jason Reynolds’ disregard for plot in favor of characterization and Jay Asher’s multiple narratives are unique but similarly effective ways to reveal that adage “fiction is folks,” and reveal that the Young Adult Novel is about readers coming to understand themselves and the world around them far more than merely addressing a narrative conflict.)

  • Elements of Realism or Romanticism in YA fiction

(idea: as a NYTBR, “Although M.T. Anderson’s Feed and MJ Beaufrand’s Rise and Fall of the Gallivanters are on the surface fantasies with obvious Romantic tendencies, it is their Realistic qualities of X and Y that bring the stories to life and bring their protagonists their important epiphanies.”)

  • The specifics of how YA novels deal with trauma
  • Foucauldian Power in YA
  • How a Similar Motif works the same way (or a different way) in two novels by the same author
  • Power Over/Power To in YA, as described by Marilyn French
  • The Road Trip Motif in YA
  • Ecology in YA
  • Special Ed/Differently Abled Teens in YA

Other suggested textual pairings

(books that have similar themes; you are under no obligation to choose any of these)

  • King’s Glory O’Brien and Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale
  • The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time, Mark Haddon & Freaks Like Us, Susan Vaught.
  • Ship Breaker, Paolo Bacigalupi & PROXY, Alex London.
  • Ship Breaker, Paolo Bacigalupi & Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Mark Twain.
  • Stick, Andrew Smith & Being Henry David, Cal Armistead.
  • The Great Gatsby. F. Scott Fitzgerald & Jake Reinvented. Gordon Korman
  • The Perks of Being a Wallflower. Stephen Chbosky & Happyface, Stephen Emond
  • Freak the Mighty. Rodman Philbrick & Wonder, JP Palacio
  • The Chocolate War, Robert Cormier & Lord of the Flies, William Golding
  • Annie on my Mind, Nancy Garden & Aristotle and Dante… Benjamin Alire Saenz
  • From this Wicked Patch of Dust, Sergio Troncoso & Aristotle and Dante… Benjamin Alire Saenz
  • The True Meaning of Smekday, Adam Rex & The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, Douglas Adams
  • When I Was the Greatest, Reynolds & How Lamar’s Bad Prank Won a Bubba-Sized Trophy, Crystal Allen

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