CFP – Beyond the Blockbusters: Themes and Trends in Contemporary Young Adult Literature

Beyond the Blockbusters: Themes and Trends in Contemporary Young Adult Literature
Deadline for submissions: December 1, 2016
Contact email:

In the last two decades, Young Adult (YA) literature has become increasingly popular; both the YA fan base and YA publishing imprints have continued to grow at a time when many other subsets of book publishing are shrinking. Fans, critics, television and film producers, and academics all seem to have turned more attention to the YA field. However, while YA continues to expand, it often appears that the corpus of texts that are taught, studied, and critically examined overlap with texts discussed in the popular media; this has created an increasingly small hypercanon of texts that are very often limited to the kinds of bestseller texts that make a huge impact on popular culture. To non-experts, the YA category is often considered to be synonymous with huge blockbuster fiction titles like Harry Potter, Twilight, The Fault in Our Stars and The Hunger Games.

In this edited collection, we seek to expand the discussion of YA from these particular titles into a larger, meta-analysis of trends and sub-genres within the YA designation. We seek to present an exploration of major motifs, themes, plot devices, narrative frames, or character types in order to theorize contemporary YA and analyze the larger implications of emerging sub-genres and trends. Ideally, essays in this collection will help to expose readers to a wider array of YA texts, rather than the standard blockbuster or canonical texts that are often discussed in isolation. We are less interested in close readings of singular texts and are more focused on analysis of broader trends; essays that address common elements across multiple contemporary texts will be given highest consideration. Essays can address YA trends or mini-genres in terms of theoretical importance, cultural significance, pedagogical value, or combinations of these approaches. This collection will ultimately help both scholars and instructors to find, classify, and work with emerging themes and motifs while drawing attention to the significant social, cultural, and political work regularly being done by YA texts that often fly under the radar.

We seek to discuss a number of questions, such as:

  • How do new trends or subgenres speak to a lack in the field that needs to be filled?
  • How do new trends or subgenres speak to changes in the conception of the teenager?
  • What do emerging trends reveal about the tensions inherent in young adulthood or the adult/child paradigm inherent to adults writing for teens?
  • How do new subgenres, themes, or patterns respond to the voices of activist communities like #blacklivesmatter or We Need Diverse Books?
  • How do emerging trends represent diverse communities and what assumptions, stereotypes, or boundaries do these texts break down or reinforce?
  • How are new or adapted narrative structures used to achieve particular pedagogical goals?
  • What do particular groups of texts with shared themes or motifs reveal about the relationship between those books and the field and/or their audience?
  • Are all trends spurred by best-seller lists and Amazon algorithms or are there other inciting events that create patterns in YA book publishing?

This collection seeks to examine contemporary YA fiction and so chapters that focus on texts published between 2005 and 2015 will be given first consideration. We would especially welcome essays that take up discussions of identity politics and representation (or lack thereof) as the central point of analysis, as well as essays that recontextualize and reinvigorate voices, perspectives, or modes of representation that are not usually discussed in collections about contemporary YA.

Examples of trends, sub-genres, or thematic patterns might include but are in no way limited to:

  • female teen assassin stories,
  • dystopian fairy tale retellings,
  • non-fiction graphic novels
  • urban street literature
  • historical fiction with cross-dressing female protagonists
  • arts boarding school narratives,
  • historical fantasy,
  • road trip fiction,
  • fake dating books,
  • nonfiction discussions of contemporary feminism,
  • end-of-days novels,
  • teen spy novels,
  • faux/accidental incest narratives,
  • narrative non-fiction,
  • verse novel memoirs, or
  • adaptations of adult non-fiction for teens

Please send chapter proposals to no later than December 1, 2016.

Each chapter proposal should include the following information:

  • your name,
  • your institutional affiliation,
  • your contact information,
  • a brief biographical statement (150 words)
  • a chapter title,
  • an abstract of the proposed piece (400-500 words)
  • and a brief representative work cited in MLA that includes the primary texts examined as well as potential secondary sources

Additionally, if you plan to incorporate images into your essay, please give a brief description of the type and number: each author will be responsible for securing necessary permissions for all images, extended text excerpts, or other materials.

Chapter proposals are due no later than December 1, 2016. If the essay is accepted to the collection, complete chapter drafts of approximately 5000-7000 words will be due May 1, 2017. All drafts should be in MLA format, reflecting the 8th edition updates. The editors, Dr. Rebekah Fitzsimmons and Dr. Casey Wilson (Georgia Institute of Technology), are happy to discuss ideas for chapters or topics before proposals are due and welcome further queries to