Empowering Readers Through YA Literature

In “The Harry Potter Novels as a Test Case for Adolescent Literature” Roberta Seelinger Trites suggests that young people fighting against institutional repression is an idea that has come up after the Victorian era (Trites 482). Novels like Jane Eyre (1847), published during the Victorian era, followed the form of a bildungsroman, which is a novel about the moral and psychological growth of the main character. Trites claims that all young adult novels take the form of a bildungsroman, but what is different from bildungsroman novels in the Victorian era compared to now, is that the protagonist has to fight institutional repression as they grow. I believe novels have progressed, from young adults complying with institutions to them going against the institutional structures and destabilizing them. This progression, in my opinion, has to do with the time period we reside in. Of course authors could not write about advanced concepts such as a young adult destroying a authority figure with their power during the Victorian era because it would be seen as radical. Today there are many popular novels about young adults using their power to destabilize the power structure and I think this is empowering for young readers. These strong-willed characters, like Harry Potter, are powerful role models whom embody courage, determination and power to resist repression. Trites suggests that Young adult novels exist to question the power relations that construct an individual (482). I believe that this is completely true; most YA literature gives readers the courage to go against the institutional structures that they may be repressed by. Although protagonists might not totally destabilize institutional repression I believe that the possibility is still enough for readers to be empowered.

Seelinger Trites, Roberta. “The Harry Potter Novels As A Test Case For Adolescent Literature.” Style 35.3 (2001): 472.

“Bildungsroman” Def. 1. Merriam Webster Online, Merriam Webster, n.d. Web. 10 Feb. 2015.

– Preet Gill


2 thoughts on “Empowering Readers Through YA Literature

  1. Peyton says:

    I agree that most YA novels have some form of rebellion against a type of institution. However, I have to disagree that all YA novels take some form of a bildungsroman. For example, The Crazy Man does have a form of rebellion, but it is not a bildungsroman. The protagonist does not age in the novel, as I believe the novel has a relatively short time frame. I think that saying all YA novels are a bildungsroman is limiting the genre. I think that the claim that there is some sort of rebellion against a form of institution in most YA novels is a more accurate description of the genre.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Kevan says:

    I think one of the most interesting aspects of YA novels is the dynamic way the characters experience the concept of “the institution” in its various forms. YA fiction encourages teen readers to push the boundaries of their repression in some ways, but often seems to embrace conventional notions of what is “good”. It’s interesting to me that when YA fiction (loosely defined genre though it is) faces extreme backlash when it really DOES challenge oppressive aspects of our culture (I’m thinking specifically of Raziel Reid’s “When Everything Feels Like The Movies”).


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