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Reading: Transgender Books in Transgender Packages: The Peritextual Materials of Young Adult Fiction


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Transgender Books in Transgender Packages: The Peritextual Materials of Young Adult Fiction


Emily Corbett

About Emily

Emily Corbett is a final year PhD Candidate at the National Centre for Research in Children’s Literature, University of Roehampton. Emily is also an Associate Editor for The International Journal of Young Adult Literature and Vice President of the YA Studies Association. 

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The packaging of a book – its peritextual materials including front cover, blurb, acknowledgements, afterword, and author notes – provides information that can contribute to a potential reader’s decision whether or not to purchase, borrow, or read the story it encases. As such, the choices made by authors, illustrators, editors, and publishers regarding books’ peritextual features can offer important insights into the spaces books are intended to occupy within their contemporary market. This article examines the peritextual materials of a broad range of Anglo-American transgender young adult novels published in the twenty-first century, in the context of the We Need Diverse Books movement and Time’s “transgender tipping point” which coincided in the mid-2010s. In doing so, it shows how the field of transgender young adult fiction has developed over the last five or so years to include more variety, intersectional diversity, and Own Voices authorship, as well as considering how the commercial packaging of various books might usefully signal the audience each is intended to attract. While a growing area of scholarship, existing research on transgender young adult novels has predominantly focused on the stories or their pedagogical function for teenage readers. Taking a different approach, this article asks how a selection of transgender young adult titles are pitched to potential readers and examines the way they signal that transgender characters or themes are included in their narratives in order to ascertain the types of audiences these books are intended to attract. It then considers how peritextual features are used to construct authorial identities, bringing readers’ attention to authors’ various knowledge, expertise, and relevant experience to write transgender characters. By examining a broad selection of peritexts, this article makes the case that transgender young adult novels are often marketed to cisgender readers at the expense of transgender and questioning adolescents who are seeking reflections of their lived experiences.

How to Cite: Corbett, E., 2020. Transgender Books in Transgender Packages: The Peritextual Materials of Young Adult Fiction. The International Journal of Young Adult Literature, 1(1). DOI:
Published on 02 Nov 2020.
Peer Reviewed


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