Wednesday, July 31, 2013

The Perfect Girls of YA Paranormal Romance

In a recent MA thesis, "Monsters in My Bed: Accounting for the Popularity of Young Adult Paranormal Romances," Whitney Young argues that "the discourse which emerges from the novels overlaps with popular discourses and narratives on girlhood and young adulthood in the US" (46). In Young's opinion many "white, privileged girls and young women" (7) are encouraged to feel that they should be "Perfect Girls, exceling in every facet of their lives: physical appearance, athleticism, and academic achievement" (29) and to think of themselves as "'can-do,' ambitious, goal oriented, and consumerist" (5), as
planners, [who] do not engage in promiscuous sex or delinquent behavior. This category of girls, white, privileged girls, is subject to this discourse and learns to tell it about themselves—they place themselves into this discourse. These discourses are not just a set of characteristics told about these girls but are part of a narrative which the novels reflect [...] and so, these novels are popular now because they reflect to the story the white, privileged girl readers learn to tell about themselves. (7)
Young argues that the common scenario in which
the heroine and her friends must deal with the supernatural by themselves, without adult support [...] parallels the narrative of emerging adults upon entering the adult world, parents can no longer help their adult children fix problems like they once did. (39)
The moment when
the supernatural enters the heroine’s life [...] can be seen as a metaphor for the narrative about emerging adult Perfect Girl’s experience upon entering the adult world [...]; they were raised to believe the world would function a certain way—that people would recognize their specialness and they would go on to do great things—but they learn that this is not the case; they are just another employee. (37)
However, the novels reassuringly offer their readers "instances in which the ideologies of specialness and doing great things can be temporarily restored" (40) and "The protagonist’s potential to change the world can offer hope to the reader that one day they still might change the world" (44).

Although these aspects of the novels might seem to reinforce the discourses about "can-do" and "Perfect" girls, Young found that, by the conclusions of the novels or series of novels
The heroines seem to be uninterested in trying to be perfect, effectively having rejected the Perfect Girl discourse. This may be because the girls are not entirely in the ideological system anymore. One reason being that facing these life-or-death events puts the heroine’s previous worries into perspective. Another reason may be that because many of the heroines in the novels end up becoming supernatural, it is they possibly don’t feel the pressure to conform to human standards like they used to. However, the most persuasive reason that the heroines are not interested in trying to attain perfection is because they have learned that they can be content, loved, and find where they belong without having to be perfect. (50)
You can read the whole thesis here.
Young, Whitney A. "Monsters in My Bed: Accounting for the Popularity of Young Adult Paranormal Romances." MA Thesis. Georgia State University. 2013.

1 comment:

  1. Very interesting, rings true. Thanks for sharing! Bookmarked it.