Writing the Young Adult Novel: Analysis and Process

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Boone, Lucinda
Creative Writing; English Language and Literature
thesis / dissertation description
The thesis consists of two sections: research and creative. The research section includes brief analyses of five young adult novels that received the Newbery Medal, awarded annually by the American Library Association to the author of the most distinguished contribution to children's literature. The creative section is an original young adult novel that incorporates some of the characteristics uncovered in the analysis of the Newbery novels. The Newbery Medal winners analyzed for this thesis are The High King by Lloyd Alexander; Dear Mr. Henshaw by Beverly Cleary; Missing Maxj by Cynthia Rylant; A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'Engle; and The Westing Game by Ellen Raskin. The plots of the five books differed greatly, and the genres ranged from fantasy (The High King and A Wrinkle in Time) to mystery (The Westing Game) to "slice of life" (Missing May and Dear Mr. Henshaw). The writing styles of the authors varied as well, from the more mature writing styles of L'Engle and Rylant, to the choppy, simplistic style of Raskin. Three of the novels (The High King, A Wrinkle in Time, and Missing May) seem more suitable for more mature readers, while Dear Mr. Henshaw and The Westing Game are more appropriate for a younger audience. Analysis of these novels revealed that, among these five books, the only element they share relates to theme: in the subplot of each of the works, the hero or heroine of each book comes to realize something important in his or her life. The authors reveal different aspects of writing to the novice writer. Analysis of Madeleine L'Engle's work shows that those who write for a younger audience should not assume their audience is incapable of reading highly sophisticated writing, while Cynthia Rylant shows that young readers can handle a mature theme, such as the death of a beloved family member. Lloyd Alexander's novel clearly instructs that the author must have a complete vision of the world about which he writes. Beverly Cleary displays the pitfalls of writing a first person narrative, while Ellen Raskin most clearly displays an example of disorganized writing. Because the only constant in the five Newbery novels was that the hero came to realize an important truth, this element was incorporated into the creative thesis. The plot of the creative thesis is that of a classic ghost story: Tasha Manning, the 14-yearold heroine, and her family move into a haunted house in a new town; she and her new friend Stephen uncover the history of the house and of the ghost. While trying to solve the mystery of the ghost that haunts her family, Tasha Manning also uncovers two important truths: that moving to a new environment is just as difficult for her parents as it is for her, and that by making an effort and changing her attitude, she can make new friends and a new life for herself.