Content features of children’s literature are seldom assessed statistically, and when they are, analysts focus predominantly on the question of gender equality within literary texts of the past century. This article aims to close the following research lacunae: First, it provides a comprehensive survey of South African youth novels in English (published between 2000 and 2013), which does not exist to date. In a content analysis, a total of 247 novels were examined with regard to the categories type of fiction, space, gender, ethnicity, and social economics. Second, this article provides a statistic-based evaluation of these research categories. The major results of the evaluation are as follows: novels written in the realistic mode comprise most of the corpus (70%); nearly 60% of all realistic texts were set in urban spaces; generally, more males (46%) feature as protagonists than females (36%); black characters are represented most frequently in South African young adult novels (37%)—however, gender equality is least given for that ethnicity; in general, colored youth are least represented in English titles (6%); protagonists with a wealthy social background comprise only 13% and rank last, while youths growing up in poor conditions are most frequently chosen as protagonist in English youth literature (41%). The above numbers are compared to and contrasted with the demographic structure of twenty-first century South Africa in order to gain a deeper understanding of how young people of various backgrounds and ethnicities are actually represented in today’s literature. The genre is highly heterogeneous. However, equal representation is not achieved in every category.


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pp. 46-58
Launched on MUSE
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