Identifying Effective Trans* Novels for Adolescent Readers


Identifying Effective Trans* Novels for Adolescent Readers


Miller, Mary Catherine


International Board on Books for Young People (IBBY)

pub year



Over the past decade there has been a steady increase in adolescent literature with transgender characters or trans* themes, though the canon is still in its formative stages. When there so few books to choose from, it becomes difficult to critique a genre for fear of limiting resources and accessibility for a group of readers who desperately need these novels. Despite these limitations, uncovering what makes an effective trans* novel is crucial to determining how to provide quality literature to gender-variant adolescents. Young adult novels with transgender protagonists are often criticized for being problem novels that revolve entirely around the struggle of a character to transition— in this sense, transitioning is painted as a “solution” to the problem, thus ostracizing readers who may not wish to fully transition and also making the assumption that one’s adolescent experience is entirely rooted in gender. Transgender adolescent literature needs to be moved out of the problem novel category and populated with complex characters who are defined by more than just their identity as transgender. While trans* readers need reflections of their own feelings about gender and personal identity, they also need to see the daily activities and mundane everyday experiences that comprise the human condition.

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Katie Arthur

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