Locked Out of Dystopia: Gender and Diversity Issues in Popular Young Adult Literature

Date of Award


Document Type

Capstone Project


Arts and Culture

Degree Name

Master of Liberal Studies


Arts & Culture


Jennifer Zukowski Boughn


dystopian fiction; young adult literature; young adult fiction; teen fiction; dystopian romance; literacy; boys and reading; protagonist gender; teen literature


Reading young adult fiction during adolescence promotes development of a moral philosophy, sense-of-self, and lifelong reading habits. Current publishing trends in young adult literature, particularly young adult dystopian fiction, largely exclude boys and minority groups from the most visible titles in popular culture. This paper establishes prevailing understandings of literacy gaps between boys and girls and their preferences for certain themes, formats, and protagonists. It also includes an independent analysis of themes and patterns in titles featuring female protagonists, male protagonists, and multiple male-female perspectives. Inclusion of this analysis in the academic literature on teen literacy informs librarians, educators, teachers, parents, readers, and publishers about the importance of curating and promoting inclusive, high quality literature for teens.

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