Many "coming of age" novels targeted toward a young adult audience present troubled protagonists who are struggling to cope with a devastating, traumatic loss. Despite the common use of this motif in texts targeted toward adolescent readers, few scholars have conducted investigations examining the connection between loss and maturity. As such, this thesis employs principles of trauma studies to explore the relationship between traumatic loss and identity formation in three young adult novels with male protagonists: J.D. Salinger's The Catcher in the Rye, Stephen Chboksy's The Perks of Being a Wallflower, and John Green's Looking for Alaska. The main chapters of this study explore the hypothesis that traumatic experience works to both complicate and induce the adolescent's movement toward a more mature, adult identity. The implications of this analysis suggest that adolescence itself can be read as a form of traumatic experience, and hence, as authors invoke trauma in young adult texts, they work toward a collective bearing of witness to the adolescent experience.


Stewart, Larry




English Language and Literature


identity crisis, trauma studies, young adult literature

Publication Date


Degree Granted

Bachelor of Arts

Document Type

Senior Independent Study Thesis



© Copyright 2012 Katie Blachman