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Reviewed by:
  • Female Rebellion in Young Adult Dystopian Fiction ed. by Sara K. Day, Miranda A. Green-Barteet, and Amy L. Montz
  • Thomas P. Fair
Sara K. Day, Miranda A. Green-Barteet, and Amy L. Montz, eds. Female Rebellion in Young Adult Dystopian Fiction. Burlington: Ashgate, 2014. 210p.

Just as the often bleak and threatening future scenarios predicted by both scientific and social pundits further complicate the adolescent’s already difficult and muddled journey into adulthood, they also significantly shape the content of the currently popular young adult dystopian novels. The successful cinematic adaptations of Suzanne Collins’s “The Hunger Games” trilogy and Veronica Roth’s Divergent provide further evidence of the genre’s current popularity. Notably, these works and their associated films present active and powerful female protagonists who attempt to negotiate gender related issues along with the distorted social and political challenges of their dystopian worlds. One notable critical response to the new dystopian texts, Female Rebellion in Young Adult Dystopian Fiction, edited by Sara K. Day, Miranda A. Green-Barteet, and Amy L. Montz, fills an important critical niche in its specialized focus on the forms of female rebellion and self-definition commonly found in this literature.

The editors’ introduction to the book’s eleven essays provides both a helpful historical context for the dystopian novel and a sequence for the emergence of the female protagonist. The collection’s tripartite division organizes the essays around shared points of emphasis. “Part I: Reflections and Reconsiderations of Rebellious Girlhood” investigates the degree to which prominent new texts either affirm new [End Page 89] directions for adolescent women or adhere to traditional cultural beliefs regarding their social identities. “Part II: Forms and Signs of Rebellion” considers how the female protagonists manifest their resistance or rebellion within the limitations of their social milieu. Lastly, “Part III: Contexts and Communities of Rebellion” examines how the protagonist’s surroundings embrace or reject her form of rebellion.

The first of Part I’s four essays, Sonya Sawyer Fritz’s “Girl Power and Girl Activism in the Fiction of Suzanne Collins, Scott Westerfield, and Moira Young,” provides an engaging cultural framework as she ties the discussion of female empowerment in the YA dystopian novels to the Riot Grrrl movement of the 1990s. Examining several texts in addition to those named in the title, Fritz primarily asserts “that the novels discussed here can be understood as helping female adolescent readers to develop a new awareness of their own potential as empowered socio-political agents” (30). Miranda A. Green-Barteet’s “‘I’m beginning to know who I am’: The Rebellious Subjectivities of Katniss Everdeen and Tris Prior” creates an unexpected and insightful parallel with Jane Eyre as a prototype of the rebellious female protagonist who “represents possibilities of resistance, empowerment, and subjectivity” (30). Green-Barteet examines how both Katniss (“The Hunger Games” trilogy) and Tris (Divergent) rebel from a subjective position: Katniss operates to protect her family, and Tris desires changes that will allow her to fit in. Through an examination of the small acts of subjective rebellion each protagonist undertakes, Green-Barteet concludes that each positively achieves a level of autonomy in her life. In “Of Scrivens and Sparks: Girl Geniuses in Young Adult Dystopian Fiction,” Rachel Dean-Ruzicka touches on the current controversy concerning the dearth of young women involved in the sciences. She analyzes the superficial portrayal of young female scientists/engineers in the novel Fever Crumb and the web comic Girl Genius. Despite the potential of YA dystopian fiction to have female characters who shift the paradigm and excel in the sciences, Dean-Ruzicka’s analysis points out how initially promising depictions of female scientists slip to conventionally subordinate stereotypes that fail to attain improvement. In one of the collection’s pivotal essays, “Docile Bodies, Dangerous Bodies: Sexual Awakening and Social Resistance in Young Adult Dystopian Novels,” Sara K. Day explores a range of novels to demonstrate “adolescent women’s sexual awakening as impetus for social resistance” (76). However, she also reveals how the novels contain the widespread conventional assumptions supporting heteronormativity that undermine the possibilities for diverse female identities.

Meghan Gilbert-Hickey’s “Gender Rolls: Bread and Resistance in the ‘Hunger...


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pp. 89-92
Launched on MUSE
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