- South African Young Adult Literature in English, 2000–2014by Sandra Stadler
South Africa celebrated its twentieth anniversary as a democracy in 2014. By discussing realistic young adult fiction written in South Africa during the early years of this new government, Sandra Stadler has in some ways also chronicled the issues the country experienced during its own coming of age. In this illuminating volume, the author provides close and distant readings on a wide selection of English-language titles. However, Stadler does not examine works by their contents alone but rather provides an analysis that considers pressing issues of race, gender, and class within a South African cultural context.
These analyses are divided into three main chapters, which also cover major themes often found in realistic young adult literature. Stadler first discusses the concept of space in South Africa, followed by a study of the representation of gender and sexual orientations, and lastly examines race and class as related to socioeconomic issues. These broader themes are divided into more specific sub-chapters that focus on particular concerns. For example, the chapter [End Page 66]on gender includes sections on masculinity, homo- and transsexuality, and young women. Each chapter contains analyses of texts related to the issues discussed, and while the author employs literary criticism in her writing, she also astutely interweaves prominent theories from other fields such as psychology and sociology.
Although each chapter is fascinating in its analysis of important topics in realistic South African young adult literature, Stadler's discussion of space is particularly interesting as this subject encompasses many other themes as related to the previously apartheid-segregated country. The spaces depicted in the fictional books back research that shows how many of these divides still exist because of the inequitable ways neighborhoods were originally built and racially split, and how these physical and social spaces have extensive economic and cultural implications. Throughout the book, Stadler does not shy away from discussing head on the issues that South Africa still faces today.
Stadler's work helps to fill a gap as scholars have not extensively written on South African youth literature post-apartheid. Also, much of South African young adult literature has not emerged onto the international scene—with some notable exceptions, such as Spudby John van de Ruit—and so this study provides not only analysis but also excellent descriptions of some heretofore lesser-known works. Anyone with a keen interest in realistic young adult literature or current issues in South Africa could find much in this book engaging. Stadler maintains an accessible writing style even when introducing complex concepts.
The volume concludes with a look to the future of young adult literature in South Africa, both in themes as well as the ways in which young people will read. Stadler includes an extensive Works Cited section and an appendix with an annotated corpus of South African young adult literature from an array of genres published during the first part of the millennium.