2023 is the final year of our project: ‘Discovering a ‘Good Read’: Cultural Pathways to Reading for Australian Teens in a Digital Age’. Earlier this year we published a newsletter providing an update on our research activities in 2022 and a preview of some our findings about how much Australian teenagers read for pleasure and the types of books they enjoy reading.
You can read the newsletter in full here
In this paper we examine the effects of the #ownvoices movement in the market for, and consumption of, young adult fiction through a focus on the promotional strategies and critical reception of a single book: Australian author Craig Silvey’s most recent young adult novel, Honeybee. Our data included author and publisher media interviews, social media reviews, and literary reviews in mainstream publications. Honeybee was selected as a case study because it has the hallmarks of a nationally influential Australian cultural product: its author has previously written novels that explore themes of discrimination and his works have been adapted for the screen and are considered suitable for study in Australian schools. On the other hand, Silvey, a heterosexual man, made the controversial choice to write from the perspective of a young trans woman. Our analysis found that the identity standpoint of the reader heavily influenced their judgement of the aesthetic quality of the novel, not simply the ethics of appropriating the voice of a marginalized other. Some self-identified LGBTQI+ readers also advocated strongly for a new kind of allyship in the book industry, one that platforms more diverse creators and thus redistributes opportunity in the creative industries.
You can read the full article https://www.goodreads.com/en/book/show/53952835
Team member and QUT PhD candidate Amy Schoonens is researching the consumption practices of YA fiction on social media by teens and other content creators (including authors and publishers). Amy explores the ways teens use their reading experience to engage in digital and social media spaces creatively, critically, socially, and in ways that represent an extension of their book engagement and recreational reading practices. These practices include:
- Reviewing and rating the book
- Recreating the book in some form, such as book covers, or character fashion
- Curating aesthetics and themes from the book through digital image collages
- Creating memes about books and other kinds of fandoms
A quick look down the titles of our teens’ favourite books shows that many of these popular titles have been translated into film. Perhaps the popularity of the books led to the making of the film or inversely, the popularity of the film led to increased readership of the book. In all likelihood it is probably a bit of both. So while many YA books have been made into films fewer have been made into television series. It was with interest then that I sat down to watch the adaptation of Jay Asher’s Thirteen Reasons Why.
In brief Thirteen Reasons Why tells the story of Hannah Baker who commits suicide but leaves a series of cassette tapes detailing the events that led to her suicide. The novel is split into thirteen sections with each section telling the story found on one side of a cassette tape, likewise each episode in the series is one side of a tape. Film adaptations generally struggle to include all the events and nuance contained in a book. Creating a series allowed time for more exposition of secondary characters allowing greater depth. Hannah’s parents are hardly mentioned in the book, here we see their anguish. In the book we are given the actions of the stereotyped bullies, in the series we are given backstory and emotion. The series is beautifully constructed with a haunting soundtrack and seamless transitions between points of view. I would go so far as to say that the series is more complex, more nuanced and better crafted than the book.
The difficulty I have with the series is that it is thirteen hours where we are immersed in this high school world knowing that Hannah commits suicide and nothing is going to change that. It is difficult to spend thirteen hours contemplating futility.