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Disturbing the Universe

Power and Repression in Adolescent Literature

Winner of the 2002 Children's Literature Association's book award

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208 pages, 5 1/2 x 9 1/4 inches
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Disturbing the Universe: Power and Repression in Adolescent Literature by Roberta Seelinger Trites is the winner of the 2002 Children's Literature Association's Book Award. The award is given annually in order to promote and recognize outstanding contributions to children's literature, history, scholarship, and criticisim; it is one of the highest academic honors that can accrue to an author of children's literary criticism.

“What makes Trites' book so significant is the grandness of its theme. She not only expounds upon the role of power in young adult literature, but she also points out that some of this literature has the potential to empower its adolescent readers. ”—Mark I. West, president of the Children's Literature Association

“Informed by theorists ranging from Lacan to Eagleton to Jameson to Foucault to Barthes, Disturbing the Universe is a cogent and thought-provoking work that breaks new ground in young adult literature and postmodern studies. ”—Sherrie A. Inness, associate professor of English, Miami University

“For many working within the field of children’s literature, this book will come as a welcome addition to an expanding corpus.”— Yearbook of English Studies

The Young Adult novel is ordinarily characterized as a coming-of-age story, in which the narrative revolves around the individual growth and maturation of a character, but Roberta Trites expands this notion by chronicling the dynamics of power and repression that weave their way through YA books. Characters in these novels must learn to negotiate the levels of power that exist in the myriad social institutions within which they function, including family, church, government, and school.

Trites argues that the development of the genre over the past thirty years is an outgrowth of postmodernism, since YA novels are, by definition, texts that interrogate the social construction of individuals. Drawing on such nineteenth-century precursors as Little Women and Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Disturbing the Universe demonstrates how important it is to employ poststructuralist methodologies in analyzing adolescent literature, both in critical studies and in the classroom. Among the twentieth-century authors discussed are Blume, Hamilton, Hinton, Le Guin, L'Engle, and Zindel.

Trites' work has applications for a broad range of readers, including scholars of children's literature and theorists of post-modernity as well as librarians and secondary-school teachers.