September 1, 2011

Guest Post: Reading YA books with the Psych Lens On (Part 1)

I'm happy to welcome Len from Musings of a Reader Happy to the blog for Psychtember! Here's Part 1 of her guest post:

To begin with, I really read YA books for leisure and love.  I love reading YA books and I have no intentions of being so critical about them.  But then sometimes, I couldn't help but read the books with my psychology lens on:  see some subjects that are psychology-related - analyze issues, characters, etc., even if the book is indirectly tackling one.  

There are a number of psychology-related topics that are touched on or dealt in some of the young adult books I know.

Here are some I would like to share:

This has been an age-long subject of concern, not only in the field of Psychology but has stemmed into other social aspects as well.  Studies have shown that there can be an age-long effect of bullying in their victims and some, if not, most of them are negative effects that can have long-term effects (e.g. self-esteem, relationships).  The worst effect it could have can even drive the bullying victim to death.  And my ongoing research is actually includes its modern counterpart, which is Cyberbullying.

Bauman (2011) in her book on Cyberbullying, includes a statistic that, estimates that “20% and 30% if students in US schools are involved in school bullying in some way.”  She also stressed the negative consequences associated with bullying.  

In a way, YA books give readers insight to the experience of bullying.  There were bullying instances in books like The Mephisto Covenant, Beautiful Creatures, (I would also include the upcoming JMK’s Loss), where there are bullying experiences in school.  Though I must note that although there are bullies, there are also those who are now brave to take a stand against it and empower the bullying targets to strength. Reading it in books can help readers vicariously experience it, gain insights in how the experience can seriously make or break a person.

Eating Disorders

Consumerism and media now portrays the image beautiful in girls as being skinny.  This distorts the self-image of some young girls, especially teenagers into thinking they are not beautiful if they are not skinny.  And to be beautiful you can belong, you will be liked, or loved.  

This distorted thinking is hard and complicated to break, especially to young girls because it is not rooted in their want, but in their need to have an approval of others who thinks highly of physical appearance.  

Laurie Halse Anderson's Wintergirls wrote a moving and wonderful story about a character who has Anorexia Nervosa.  Hunger by Jackie Morse Kessler have her character with Anorexia becomes the horseman of Famine.  Both are good reads about the eating disorder, the latter with a paranormal setting and Wintergirls’ a more haunting feel.  

I think it is wonderful that these issues are raised in books that are intended for both young and adults.  These are issues that are real and are need to be understood and addressed.  
Next on Part 2:  Sexual/Physical/Verbal Abuse, and Suicide 

[Len Delgado (maidenveil) graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree in Psychology, and MA in Counseling Psychology. She currently focused with research and recent studies on social, young adolescent, gender, and personality, and exploration on Forensic Psychology.]

Thanks for sharing your perspective, Len! Tune in tomorrow for Part 2 of Len's guest post. 

In the meantime...what are your thoughts on portrayals of bullying and eating disorders in YA novels? Have you read any of the books Len mentioned? What did you think? 

Also, if you haven't yet checked out my "Beliefs About Psychology" survey, hop on over here!


  1. Hunger was such a vivid portrayal of eating disorders. I thought that was a great one to read if someone is trying to understand the mindset of someone with anorexia.

  2. I think bullying and anorexia/bulimia are generally portrayed pretty well in books. I haven't read Wintergirls or Hunger but I've got both on my wishlist and The Mephisto Covenant is in my TBR pile.

  3. "Wintergirls" was my first venture into the actual mindset of someone with anoxeria. I usually read stories that talked around the issue with an intervention and a solution but no one seemed to address what is really going to the person with the disease.

  4. I started reading Wintergirls,but you're right it was haunting. I read Hunger which was a strange, but intriguing read about bulimia. It was a chilling paranormal look that took a standard story and gave it an edge.

  5. Wow. What an awesome post! I loved Wintergirls. I thought it did a PHENOMENAL job addressing eating disorders. I thought Hunger did a great job with eating disorders also, but think it would have been a MUCH strong book if it hadn't tossed the paranormal stuff in there too. I felt it detracted a lot from the story and felt a little... gimmicky to me. :(


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