Well. Here we are. The last Thesis Thursday post. Last Wednesday, I successfully defended my 84 page behemoth that had 7 pages of work cited, single spaced. The only thing I have left to do is get it bound and submit a copy to the English Department. My panel has already decided that I get English Honors, so there is no stress left. Just the finished project.
Chapter One, which took up all of last semester, was the real, serious English-y investigation. I read five YA female assassin novels and talked about how YA literature is either letting girls be their real, strong selves or … not. Mostly it was not. Sarah J. Maas’s Throne of Glass remained my shining centerpiece, but … well. Graceling by Kristin Cashore actually sort of held up, but Arwen Elys Dayton’s Seeker, Bridget Zinn’s Poison and RL LaFevers’ Grave Mercy did not. All the links I just inserted are to my reviews or re-reviews of those books. Mostly, I ended up talking about how YA tropes end up promising strong female characters and then don’t give us that–and that makes me angry.
Chapter Two y’all saw some of, but that was the hardest chapter to write. I was talking about the commodification of YA book covers, but my original thesis didn’t hold up. I ended up needing a lot more quantitative research than I expected, and I had to redo my entire thesis statement. In the end, what I ended up saying is that the YA book cover industry looks a lot more diverse than it used to, but only for books that can pay for good cover art. Everything else is still blase look-alike kind of stuff. I actually did a video summarizing some of my research!
Chapter Three was the one that made me REALLY angry. I even posted a video about how it almost got me to stop blogging for like 30 seconds. It was all about how the publishing industry uses the free labor of teens to get their marketing data, but how a lot of the really GOOD data is ignored for information about what sells–like love triangles. It was all stuff I knew, really, but seeing it proven was just … wow. It was worse than I thought, I guess.
At my defense, my advisor–who’s been with me through all four years of college–got kind of nostalgic about all that time she’s known me, and now seeing this project come to fruition. She knows better than almost everyone else how much time and energy I put into my study and love of YA, and how much this project really means to me. It isn’t just a research project. It’s the culmination of years of my life spent blogging and reading, and a deep love of YA literature that is coupled with a serious desire for improvement within the genre. I guess, in a way, I hadn’t thought about this as the project I’ve been working on for all those years. This was just, you know, this year. But … she’s right. It never was. This is my heart and soul on these pages.
And now it’s done. Well, the paper anyways. I’m far from done. This project has shown me that this kind of research–in YA, on YA–is what I really want to do. I want to live this kind of work. Yeah, I’m going to Korea for a year, but this is the end goal. I want to go to grad school and do an even better version of this project. I want to say something that someone is going to listen to. This isn’t the end. It’s just the beginning.