What Girls Do: Girls’ Political Participation Reflected in Contemporary Young Adult Literature

Name: Carly McWilliams
Majors: Political Science, English
Advisors: Dr. Angie Bos, Dr. Jessica Cowing

While young adult (YA) novels have always incorporated political themes, a new surge of YA novels published since 2017 depict young characters engaging in explicit political participation within the United States. These novels offer an image of young girls’ political engagement that addresses compelling questions about youth political involvement from within the political science discipline, as well as comprise a new, developing subgenre of YA fiction, which I define as contemporary political YA fiction. My study seeks to investigate representations of young girls’ political participation in contemporary political YA novels, as well as how these novels reflect what political science scholars know about youth political participation in the United States. I develop a set of expectations for the representations of girls as political activists in these YA novels, then conduct a literary analysis of five novels belonging to the contemporary political YA subgenre. My analysis combines close-reading and distant-reading techniques to examine the individual novels alongside the subgenre of contemporary political YA as its own entity. I find that my expectations were mostly affirmed in all five YA novels, suggesting that contemporary political YA tends to reflect young girls’ political participatory styles. However, where my expectations were not affirmed, the novels offered new explanations or contributing factors that enhance our understanding of young girls’ political actions. I conclude this study with suggestions for future research in both the YA fiction genre and young girls’ political participation based on my observations.

Posted in Comments Enabled, Independent Study, Symposium 2022 on April 26, 2022.

15 responses to “What Girls Do: Girls’ Political Participation Reflected in Contemporary Young Adult Literature”

  1. Laura McWilliams says:

    I loved listening to this interesting presentation! Great speaking voice and such an engaging topic. Well done Carly!

  2. Angie Bos says:

    Carly! This is such an AMAZING integration of your Political Science and English on such an important topic. It really highlights how popular media reflect, reinforce and challenge conceptions of gender in politics. So powerful – thank you for sharing this experience with me as an advisor. Best, Prof. Bos

  3. Leslie Wingard says:

    Your English Department SALUTES you, Carly! Gracias for this well-thought I.S. work and all other things you’ve done in and outside of class to help the Department click 👊🏾👍🏾🙌🏾. #muchrespect

  4. Bas van Doorn says:

    Congrats, Carly! Such a great example of what a double major IS can be.

  5. Claire Eager says:

    Clear and convincing presentation of your significant findings, Carly! Thanks so much for taking us through the research process and conclusions in such detail, and congratulations!

  6. Clare Leithauser says:

    Congrats Carly, this is very interesting! What was the most challenging thing you faced during your research?

  7. Jim McWilliams says:

    An outstanding capstone project to end your collegiate career. Very impressive young lady, congratulations on a job well done!

  8. Dean Hernandez says:

    Congratulations,Carly! I love YA literature. Thank you for adding some new titles to my list. You did a wonderful job on your presentation.

  9. Hannah Groetsch says:

    Go Carly!! So proud of how you turned a tower of YA books and sticky notes into awesome research!

  10. Kate Beutner says:

    Carly, great job! I love seeing critical explorations of YA novels–they’re such an interesting window into culture!

  11. Amy Groetsch says:

    Well done, Carly!

  12. Brian Luck says:

    Congrats Carly!

  13. Carolyn Klein says:

    Double the majors, double the fun 🙂 Congrats Carly!

  14. Abby McFarren says:

    This is such a cool project Carly! Excited to read some of the books you looked at!

  15. Natalie Bean says:

    Loved the online presentation Carly! What a neat project and applicable findings!

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