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Reading Like a Girl

Reading Like a Girl: Narrative Intimacy in Contemporary American Young Adult Literature

Sara K. Day
Copyright Date: 2013
Pages: 240
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  • Book Info
    Reading Like a Girl
    Book Description:

    By examining the novels of critically and commercially successful authors such as Sarah Dessen (Someone Like You), Stephenie Meyer (the Twilight series), and Laurie Halse Anderson (Speak), Reading Like a Girl: Narrative Intimacy in Contemporary American Young Adult Literature explores the use of narrative intimacy as a means of reflecting and reinforcing larger, often contradictory, cultural expectations regarding adolescent women, interpersonal relationships, and intimacy. Reading Like a Girl explains the construction of narrator-reader relationships in recent American novels written about adolescent women and marketed to adolescent women.

    eISBN: 978-1-62103-960-0
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-2)
  4. Chapter 1 “She Is a Creature Designed for Reading” Narrative Intimacy and the Adolescent Woman Reader
    (pp. 3-28)

    In a review of Meg Cabot’s The Princess Diaries posted on, teenage reader Claire says, “When I read the book, I feel like my friend is telling me a story.” Reviewer Ashton identifies so strongly with Jessica Darling, the narrator of Megan McCafferty’s Sloppy Firsts, that she declares, “Me and her are practically related.” And Khy says of the narrator of E. Lockhart’s The Treasure Map of Boys, “I didn’t realize how much I missed Ruby Oliver until I started reading this third book in the series.” These comments, which cast fictional characters as peers, relatives, and especially friends,...

  5. Chapter 2 “Opening Myself Like a Book to the Spine” Disclosure and Discretion in Constructions of Friendship
    (pp. 29-63)

    In Queen Bees and Wannabes: Helping Your Daughter Survive Cliques, Gossip, Boyfriends, and Other Realities of Adolescence, a study of adolescent womanhood published in 2002 and marketed to parents of teenage girls, Rosalind Wiseman asserts,

    Your daughter’s friendships with other girls are a double-edged sword—they’re key to surviving adolescence, yet they can be the biggest threat to her survival as well. The friendships with girls in her clique are a template for many relationships she’ll have as an adult. Many girls will make it through their teen years precisely because they have the support and care of a few...

  6. Chapter 3 “He Couldn’t Get Close Enough” The Exploration and Relegation of Desire
    (pp. 64-100)

    As the novels discussed in the previous chapter demonstrate, the development of narrative intimacy in young adult literature can play an important role in modeling or reinforcing cultural norms about friendships between adolescent women. Beyond the world of fiction, psychologists and sociologists postulate that young women’s platonic relationships also play a vital part in establishing the foundation for romantic relationships, despite (or perhaps because of) the challenges that young women face in navigating their friendships. According to Kara Joyner and J. Richard Udry, adolescent women “bring more intimacy-related skills to relationships [than adolescent men], due to their experiences of intimate...

  7. Chapter 4 “She Doesn’t Say a Word” Violations and Reclamations of Intimacy
    (pp. 101-143)

    In the previous two chapters, I have dealt with the explicit benefits and implicit threats of disclosure in adolescent women’s interpersonal relationships; through portrayals of friendships and romantic relationships, I argue, narrative intimacy in contemporary American young adult literature acts as a model for measured disclosure, encouraging adolescent woman readers to consider the dangers of intimacy while actively engaging them in relationships that depend upon the narrator’s ability to fully disclose her thoughts and feelings. In this chapter, I shift to a consideration of how explicit violations of intimacy—namely, abuse and assault—challenge both narrators’ and readers’ concepts of...

  8. Chapter 5 “What if Someone Reads It?” Concealment and Revelation in Diary Fiction
    (pp. 144-180)

    In the previous three chapters, I have considered the potential benefits of and threats to intimacy presented by young women’s interpersonal relationships; generally, narrators’ attitudes toward disclosure have been marked by their awareness of their vulnerability to such risks, while narrative intimacy has developed as a model or reflection of a contradictory expectation that young women should both seek intimacy and refrain from becoming too intimate with anyone. The model of storytelling employed by the narrators I have discussed thus far, furthermore, has placed less emphasis on the specific mode of communication than on the impulse driving that communication. While...

  9. Chapter 6 “Let Me Know What You Think” Fan Fiction and the Reimagining of Narrative Intimacy
    (pp. 181-204)

    In a discussion on, the official fan site for author Sarah Dessen, teen reader Charlene writes:

    i am really glad that you created this community … it gives all of us a place to come together and discuss the books … After reading one of the books i sought out all of the rest of them and have loved them all … i love how each book has a very realistic and everyday occuring [sic] circumstance that must be overcome … the books are so easy to relate to and you can find a part of yourself [in] almost...

  10. Appendix: Awards and Prizes
    (pp. 205-206)
  11. Notes
    (pp. 207-218)
  12. References
    (pp. 219-230)
  13. Index
    (pp. 231-240)