The Cost of Adolescence: Mental Health, Gender Performance, and the Heterosexual Marketplace in Contemporary Young Adult Fiction
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This paper looks at the portrayal of mental health in protagonists within selected contemporary fiction young adult novels. In these selected texts, the protagonists are all dealing with mental health in various ways that are not always healthy, which can be argued to be linked to issues regarding gender performativity and the heterosexual marketplace. We see many instances of the heterosexual marketplace in play, with characters in these novels finding their value by being in heterosexual relationships, enforcing the marketplace. In addition, they also have pressure by peers to participate in romantic, heterosexual relationships, which hinders their ability to concentrate on their growth. These characters learn how to perform their gender through their interactions with older characters, as well as through print media. They are primarily struggling with issues related to mental health, ranging from OCD to eating disorders, and the added pressure of the heterosexual marketplace and gender performativity doesn’t necessarily lead to much positive growth in handling their mental health. Using lenses of feminist and gender theories, I explore how these issues are important in determining the way the characters deal with their mental health and have a lack of growth.
contemporary young adult fiction
The Perks of Being a Wallflower
Keeping the Moon
Turtles All the Way Down
Hicks, Rachel Kay (2020). The Cost of Adolescence: Mental Health, Gender Performance, and the Heterosexual Marketplace in Contemporary Young Adult Fiction. Undergraduate Research Scholars Program. Available electronically from