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Reading Like a Girl

Narrative Intimacy in Contemporary American Young Adult Literature

Sara K. Day

Publication Year: 2013

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.

Sara K. Day explains, though, that such levels of imagined friendship lead to contradictory cultural expectations for the young women so deeply obsessed with reading these novels. Day coins the term "narrative intimacy" to refer to the implicit relationship between narrator and reader that depends on an imaginary disclosure and trust between the story's narrator and the reader. Through critical examination, the inherent contradictions between this enclosed, imagined relationship and the real expectations for adolescent women's relations prove to be problematic.

In many novels for young women, adolescent female narrators construct conceptions of the adolescent woman reader, constructions that allow the narrator to understand the reader as a confidant, a safe and appropriate location for disclosure. At the same time, such novels offer frequent warnings against the sort of unfettered confession the narrators perform. Friendships are marked as potential sites of betrayal and rejection. Romantic relationships are presented as inherently threatening to physical and emotional health. And so, the narrator turns to the reader for an ally who cannot judge. The reader, in turn, may come to depend upon narrative intimacy in order to vicariously explore her own understanding of human expression and bonds.

Published by: University Press of Mississippi

Series: Children's Literature Association Series


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pp. 1-1

Title Page, Copyright

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pp. 2-7


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pp. vii-9

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pp. ix-13

This project, which began at Texas A&M University, would not have been possible without the generous, patient guidance of my mentor, Claudia Nelson, and of Lynne Vallone, Mary Ann O’Farrell, and John Lenihan. I am grateful to each of you for your insights, advice, and support. I am grateful as well to the Texas A&M Department of English ...

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1. “She Is a Creature Designed for Reading”: Narrative Intimacy and the Adolescent Woman Reader

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pp. 3-28

In a review of Meg Cabot’s The Princess Diaries posted on Amazon.com, 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 ...

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2. “Opening Myself Like a Book to the Spine”: Disclosure and Discretion in Constructions of Friendship

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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 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 ...

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3. “He Couldn’t Get Close Enough”: The Exploration and Relegation of Desire

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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 ...

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4. “She Doesn’t Say a Word”: Violations and Reclamations of Intimacy

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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 ...

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5. “What if Someone Reads It?”: Concealment and Revelation in Diary Fiction

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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 storytell-...

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6. “Let Me Know What You Think”: Fan Fiction and the Reimagining of Narrative Intimacy

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pp. 181-204

In a discussion on Sarah-Land.ning.com, the official fan site for author 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 ...


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pp. 205-206


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pp. 207-218


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pp. 219-230


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pp. 231-240

E-ISBN-13: 9781621039600
E-ISBN-10: 1621039609
Print-ISBN-13: 9781617038112

Page Count: 240
Publication Year: 2013

Series Title: Children's Literature Association Series
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OCLC Number: 824610061
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Reading Like a Girl

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • American fiction -- 21st century -- History and criticism.
  • Intimacy (Psychology) in literature.
  • Young adult literature, American -- History and criticism.
  • Teenage girls -- Books and reading -- United States.
  • Adolescence in literature.
  • Girls in literature.
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