Young Adult

The phrase “young adult” reflects the history of changing perceptions of childhood, adolescence, and adulthood and how these ideas have shaped parenting, education, libraries, publishing, and marketing (Cart 1996; Eccleshare 1996; Campbell 2009). The Young Adult Library Services Association (YALSA) denotes ages twelve to eighteen as composing “young adult” readers (YALSA 1994). Given the dominant conception that this period of growth is particularly important, understandings of what constitutes “good” young adult literature vary extensively, for there is a great deal at stake.

Readers often imagine young adult (YA) literature as texts that challenge the status quo. They believe that while children’s literature finds its roots in a cheerful, Wordsworthian Romanticism, YA literature is heir to the more revolutionary strain of Blakean Romanticism with characters who incisively expose society’s ills (Lesnik-Oberstein 1998). An examination of the phrase’s history, however, reveals a more complex Romantic inheritance that can illuminate contradictions within the …

This essay may be found on page 228 of the printed volume.

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