The Issues of Representation/Representing Sex, Drugs and Alcohol in British Contemporary Young Adult Fiction

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis


There is an ongoing debate into whether contentious issues, such as sex, drugs and alcohol, should be contained in young adult fiction (YAF). In this debate, the popular press most often represents the view that children, including young adults (YA), should be protected, and thereby remain innocent, thus characterising the inclusion of sensitive topics in children’s fiction (including YAF) as an unacceptable assault on that innocence. Conversely, and as explored in this thesis, there are others, especially authors and academic critics (including myself) who suggest that fiction is an ideal place to explore such issues because of the nature of the vicarious experience it offers. This thesis is presented in two parts. The first is the creative aspect which is a YA novel entitled Ham & Jam. This is the story of four students on a school trip. They embark on a mission to save a young Afghan girl who had been trafficked and was being sold for sex. The novel developed out of the research undertaken for the second aspect of this thesis which is a critical exploration into how the contentious issues of sex, drugs and alcohol have been represented within YAF since 1996. Using Melvin Burgess’s novel, Junk (1996) as a starting point, and his representation of sex, drugs and alcohol as a benchmark, a selection of British contemporary realist YAF from 1996 and for each subsequent year up to, and including, 2010 were compared critically and culturally from the dual perspective of writer and reader. The cultural research involved understanding society’s perception of these contentious issues by examining current statistics and government reports. The results of which were used as a form of narrative system, enabling me to critically compare the representation of sex, drugs and alcohol in YAF with this ‘perceived’ reality
Original languageEnglish
QualificationDoctor of Philosophy
Awarding Institution
  • University of Winchester
  • Melrose, Andrew, Supervisor
  • Elizabeth, Stuart, Supervisor
  • Manning, Paul, Supervisor
Award date25 Aug 2011
Publication statusPublished - 2011

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