Identity Formation in Young Adult Fantasy Literature
Leeuwen, A.M. van
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Adolescence is the stage of life during which an individual is most occupied with who they are. The literature aimed at this age group reflects this in its treatment of identity, which is often a much larger part of the story than it is in literature aimed at adults. In recent years, academic discussions of Young Adult (YA) literature have become more numerous. Many of these discussions take only one or two YA series as their objects of analysis. This thesis aimed to outline how the process of identity formation occurs in and around Young Adult novels through a combination of general analysis, close reading, and fandom analysis. The selection of novels was limited to series within the fantasy genre. Three types of novels were distinguished on the basis of their treatment of identity: in the first type a character is categorised on the basis of their identity, the second type contain categories into which a character is born, and the third type forgoes categorisation altogether. Instead, the identity of these characters is formed only through the society they live in, the people they engage with, and the events in the novel. Type one novels were found to emphasise community through like-mindedness, showing the reader that they can find a community of people that resemble them. Type two novels are less concerned with agency, and more with acceptance of what one is born as. Type three novels tell the reader that their choices, informed by the people around them, will shape their identity.