Date of Award

Spring 2020

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



Committee Chair

Eric Tribunella

Committee Chair School


Committee Member 2

Alexandra Valint

Committee Member 2 School


Committee Member 3

Emily Stanback

Committee Member 3 School


Committee Member 4

Kate Cochran

Committee Member 4 School



This project argues that young adult literature forces the young fat body to disappear within texts, although that disappearance might occur in different ways and signify different meanings. Some stories, like The Planet of Junior Brown, allow the fat protagonist to disappear literally by removing them physically from the narrative and relinquishing their agency to normative characters. Other texts, like 45 Pounds (More or Less) or Huge, allow the fat protagonists to disappear through weight loss, indicating that fat characters must lose weight in order to be successful in normative society. Regardless of how the disappearance takes place, whether it is metaphorical or physical, young adult literature suggests that fat youth cannot exist within normative spaces.

Exploring the fat youthful body in adolescent literature allows scholars to reexamine and redefine contemporary youth. First, the project examines three foundational young adult texts featuring fat characters (The Planet of Junior Brown, Blubber, Staying Fat for Sarah Byrnes). Then, it explores contemporary issues—like mental disability and weight loss–– in young adult novels about fat characters. A conclusion argues for the importance of fat characters in young adult literature, speculates about the future of fat characters, and advocates for a redefinition of normative young adulthood.

Available for download on Monday, May 14, 2170