Testing the limits: postmodern adolescent identities in contemporary coming-of-age stories

Ebony Daley-Carey*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)


Coming-of-age stories have conventionally constructed the development of subjectivity as a linear, cohesive, and ultimately empowering process. Narrative closure is thus typically contingent on the adolescent protagonist’s ability to acquire an agentic form of self-knowledge and integrate productively into the adult world. In contrast, the failure to transcend adolescent liminality is perceived as a sign of developmental dysfunction that requires social or narrative correction. This article argues for the subversive potential of texts that interrogate these prescriptive boundaries. Through an analysis of two unconventional coming-of-age stories, Eimear McBride’s A Girl is a Half-Formed Thing and Sonya Hartnett’s Of a Boy, it examines how contemporary YA fiction is beginning to question cultural norms surrounding adolescence and reconstruct established modes of representing identity formation. Each novel provocatively challenges established ideas about what constitutes YA fiction, and is symptomatic of the ways in which this inherently fluid genre is expanding and evolving.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)467-484
Number of pages18
JournalChildren's Literature in Education
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2018


  • Abjection
  • Coming-of-age stories
  • Liminality
  • Postmodernism
  • Trauma theory
  • Young adult fiction

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