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The School Story - Young Adult Narratives in the Age of Neoliberalism

The School Story

Young Adult Narratives in the Age of Neoliberalism

By David Aitchison
Series: Children's Literature Association Series

Hardcover : 9781496837622, 200 pages, February 2022
Paperback : 9781496837639, 200 pages, February 2022

Through the lens of literature and film for and about students, a critique of what neoliberalism unleashed in schools


The School Story: Young Adult Narratives in the Age of Neoliberalism examines the work of contemporary writers, filmmakers, and critics who, reflecting on the realm of school experience, help to shape dominant ideas of school. The creations discussed are mostly stories for children and young adults. David Aitchison looks at serious novels for teens including Laurie Halse Anderson’s Speak and Faiza Guène’s Kiffe Kiffe Tomorrow, the light-hearted, middle-grade fiction of Andrew Clements and Tommy Greenwald, and Malala Yousafzai’s autobiography for young readers, I Am Malala. He also responds to stories that take young people as their primary subjects in such novels as Sapphire’s Push and films including Battle Royale and Cooties. Though ranging widely in their accounts of young life, such stories betray a mounting sense of crisis in education around the world, especially in terms of equity (the extent to which students from diverse backgrounds have fair chances of receiving quality education) and empowerment (the extent to which diverse students are encouraged to gain strength, confidence, and selfhood as learners).

Drawing particular attention to the influence of neoliberal initiatives on school experience, this book considers what it means when learning and success are measured more and more by entrepreneurship, competitive individualism, and marketplace gains. Attentive to the ways in which power structures, institutional routines, school spaces, and social relations operate in the contemporary school story, The School Story offers provocative insights into a genre that speaks profoundly to the increasingly precarious position of education in the twenty-first century.


"David Aitchison’s The School Story is, quite simply, brilliant. It’s intelligent, theoretically grounded, broadly conversant with primary and secondary materials, well researched, and well written. I know of no other book on the school story that is as engaged with the contexts and politics of the genre. "

- Beverly Lyon Clark, author of Kiddie Lit: The Cultural Construction of Children’s Literature in America

"Shifting focus from the school story as traditionally defined, The School Story: Young Adult Narratives in the Age of Neoliberalism provides a creative and intelligent response to an ever-expanding and evolving genre, and firmly cements the school story as a permanent feature in the YA world."

- Amy Naylor, The International Journal of Young Adult Literature