Breaking the Binary: Using Kohlberg and Lesko to Examine Adolescence in Asher’s Thirteen Reasons Why

Chea Parton


This article uses Kohlberg’s cognitive-developmental model of adolescent stages of moral growth (developmental) to examine Jay Asher’s Thirteen Reasons Why and how character development might affect adolescent and adult readers’ understandings of adolescence (social construction). It argues that young adult books like Asher’s reduce the adolescent experience to a series of decisions made by overly exuberant and hormone-ridden brains, and that, therefore, they are ineffective, and even irresponsible, in portraying adolescent life. YA novels make incredible contributions to the cultural construction of adolescent, and examining those contributions is a crucial part of understanding why adolescents hold their current position in society and how that position is constructed.

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The Looking Glass: new perspectives on children's literature

ISBN 1551-5680