Reading Like a GirlNarrative Intimacy in Contemporary American Young Adult Literature

Reading Like a GirlNarrative Intimacy in Contemporary American Young Adult Literature

Sara K. Day

Print publication date: 2014

ISBN: 9781617038112

Publisher: University Press of Mississippi


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), this book 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. It explains the construction of narrator–reader relationships in recent American novels written about, and marketed to, adolescent women. The author explains, though, that such levels of imagined friendship lead to contradictory cultural expectations for the young women so deeply obsessed with reading these novels. She 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 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.