Date of Graduation

Spring 2018

Document Type

Honors Research Project

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts

Major

English

Research Sponsor

Dr. Heather Braun

First Reader

Dr. Hillary Nunn

Second Reader

Dr. Julie Drew

Abstract

Since the turn of the century, mental illnesses such as depression, anxiety, and self-harm have been on the rise in teenagers. A teen’s first confrontation with a traumatic event, such as violence or grief, often exacerbates symptoms of mental illness in those already susceptible. The problem novel, a subcategory of Young Adult literature, has emerged as a potentially therapeutic cultural form for teenagers coping with illness and/or trauma. In a world that still heavily stigmatizes mental afflictions, it can be helpful and affirming to read about characters dealing with similar issues through the comfortable distance of fiction. Readers can identify their own symptoms and coping mechanisms and more importantly, locate potential strategies for recovery through the stories of the protagonists. To illustrate the therapeutic value of a problem novel, two recent releases that address the grieving process following the traumatic death of parental figure---Change Places With Me by Lois Metzger and We Are Okay by Nina LaCour---will be examined. Though the circumstances surrounding their illness/trauma are different, the protagonists of each novel employ strategies for coping and recovery that real grieving teens might find relatable, such as emotional self-awareness, the adoption of an acceptable outer persona to conceal painful emotions from others, and the eventual articulation of the trauma and its effects. These texts emphasize the importance of accessible fiction that articulates and thus destigmatizes the process of recovery from illness and/or trauma.

Share

COinS