Writing Digital Culture into Contemporary Realist Young Adult Literature:
a novel and exegesis
My PhD thesis argues that contemporary realist Young Adult Literature (YAL) thrives at an exciting nexus of possibilities, including literary experimentation, storytelling, identity formation, and culture shaping. With this in mind, certain YAL can be seen as representing a valuable discourse around urgent post-digital literary and cultural ideas that evidence new ways of thinking about, and responding creatively to, the subject of digital technologies within the lives of young people and within literature.
The research is practice-based and comprises a created work - the young adult novel - and contextualising exegesis exploring the language and practices of digital culture and its impact on contemporary realist YAL.
This creative writing research builds upon the work of other realist YA authors similarly concerned with representing the experienced/lived world of digital culture for its readers. While innovating new ways of approaching multimodal fiction writing this work remediates previous experience in filmmaking and screenwriting, situating this as a formative, adaptive and transferrable technique for developing original work.
You can find a copy of my thesis here.
The Novel: The Networked Wonderland of Us.
The Networked Wonderland of Us is a contemporary coming-of-age, detective novel for young adults with fast banter, strong characterization and a message for today’s Z generation about the dangers of sharing too much online. When first-year film student Taylor finds street food worker Kasha murdered in her hometown she discovers a number of uncanny online connections that drive her deep into the dead girl’s world. Their real lives are equally connected. As Taylor’s recent past catches up with her she’s drawn into finding out the dead girl’s killer. Taylor’s smart, confident, and very much her own person, but she is also flawed. She’s made mistakes, and, although the internet is a great place to reinvent yourself, it’s also unforgetting.
As her investigation takes her on a journey to discover the real Kasha she also learns more about who she really is, and in the process, accidentally unearths a secret that changes everything.
When first-year film student Taylor Millar (18) finds a girl brutally murdered in her hometown she looks her up online and finds some surprising connections to her own life. Soon an old friend is accused of her murder and Taylor is drawn further into the dead girl’s world.
Can Taylor discover who killed Kasha before it’s too late? And what has this got to do with her old frenemy Cyd?
With help from best friends Rhid and Lola, Taylor traces a fine line between Kasha’s online and offline worlds. Taylors investigations uncover the true story behind Kasha’s last year of life and learn something life-changing about her own backstory.
The Networked Wonderland of Us is a story about becoming who you are in a world where you can be anybody you want to be.
KEYWORDS: creative writing, multimodal writing, digital culture, young adult literature, creative practice-based research.
Cover art for my PhD novel by the talented Libby Scott. www.libbymariescott.co.uk
The Networked Wonderland of Us was longlisted for The Times Chicken House Children's Fiction Competition 2020.