Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



Document Type



Young Adult literature is an important source of information for young readers, and this genre makes a distinct contribution to the cultural and social construction of femininity and female sexuality in its pages. How to Make a Girl: Female Sexuality in Young Adult Literature analyzes representations of female sexuality in more than fifty texts. By examining these texts in relation to each other and in terms of historical development, this project creates a literary history of female sexuality in Young Adult fictions. By depicting young women in varying stages of adolescence and young adulthood, these fictional texts offer unique representations of young female characters. Since adolescence is a life stage that usually includes a growing awareness of sexuality, this genre is replete with issues, images, and ideas connected to sexuality. By analyzing themes and tropes such as body image, lesbianism, pregnancy, and romance, and their relationship(s) to female sexuality, this study reveals the participation of Young Adult literature in the social construction of femininity and female sexuality. Examining these texts with a feminist perspective reveals the complexities of these representations. Each chapter focuses on the various functions of these tropes, such as an imbedded link between body image and sexual responsibility, a critique of compulsory heterosexuality, pregnancy as impetus for separation from the traditional family unit and the idea of romance as a transitional stage for young women. While many texts reinforce traditional gender roles for young women, many more texts challenge received ideas and provide alternative visions of what it means to be young and female in patriarchal culture.



Document Availability at the Time of Submission

Release the entire work immediately for access worldwide.

Committee Chair

Robin Roberts