Girls growing up Gordie: the post-apocalyptic heroine and the Australian girl reader of Isobelle Carmody's Obernewtyn Chronicles

Jodi McAlister

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Australian young adult (YA) fiction has a post-apocalyptic tradition that considerably pre-dates dystopia's current global popularity. Long before characters like Katniss Everdeen and Tris Prior emerged into mainstream popular consciousness, Australian YA fiction gave us several strong heroines struggling for a better life in a postapocalyptic setting. One such was Elspeth Gordie of Isobelle Carmody's Obernewtyn Chronicles. The Obernewtyn Chronicles are unusual in that they have been published across a considerable span of time. The first book was published in 1987, while the final instalment is not due to be published until the end of 2015. Numerous readers of the series have, in many ways, grown up with it: discovering it as pre-teens or teenagers, and continuing to follow it into adulthood. The first Obernewtyn fan site – – was established in 1999, and continues to be active to this day. However, despite the current popularity of texts like The Hunger Games and Divergent, the Obernewtyn Chronicles are not especially well known outside Australia. This article will explore the ways in which fans interact with and respond to the Obernewtyn books, and the ways in which this has evolved and changed. It will investigate two key questions. Why have the Obernewtyn Chronicles appealed so strongly to an Australian audience? And why have they appealed so strongly to a girl audience? I will draw on several different critical theories to unpack this appeal, including postcolonial theory, feminist theory, girlhood studies, and autoethnography. I will also integrate this with reader-response theory, looking closely at the responses of readers who began reading these books as children and who are continuing to engage with them decades later.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-15
Number of pages15
JournalTEXT : journal of writing and writing programs
Publication statusPublished - 2015


  • creative writing
  • young adult
  • girlhood
  • dystopia
  • Isobelle Carmody


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