Date of Defense


Date of Graduation




First Advisor

Jeanne LaHaie

Second Advisor

Christopher Nagle

Third Advisor

Gwen Tarbox


Well-known for the Leviathan trilogy, Scott Westerfeld exemplifies in the series' second novel, Behemoth, the ways in which one's gender expression does not always match one's gender identity or biological sex: a progressive representation of queer identity. His characters shift between gender roles, striving to develop sense of self in this steampunk alternate reality. Another contemporary author, David Levithan, shares this tendency to depict queer identities in nontraditional ways in his recent novel, Two Boys Kissing. His diverse characters portray orientation as performative, in that they mostly refrain from identity categories and labels, accentuating their natural impulses and realistic lives instead. This crucial shift in the representation of LGBTQ youth is necessary to provide the reader with "progressively transformative experiences," as Westerfeld and Levithan's texts do. In doing so, "teenagers will also feel less repressed by the authoritarian social forces they perceive operating on them" (Trites 52).

In Disturbing the Universe, Trites explains that, while YA novels might involve straight characters, gay characters, or both, sexuality-and I argue gender expression, too-serves as a prominent site of power for adolescents, specifically because it is "regulated by language" (115). Society uses these identity categories, like orientation and gender, to repress and empower adolescents; these institutions, she argues, "gain power from the very people they regulate" (22). However, when we misrepresent or neglect to represent queer youth in adolescent literature, we deny them their due respect and worth; we disempower them.

Access Setting

Honors Thesis-Restricted