Children's Literature in Education

, Volume 46, Issue 4, pp 359–377 | Cite as

Neither Very Bi Nor Particularly Sexual: The Essence of the Bisexual in Young Adult Literature

  • Bonnie KneenEmail author
Original Paper


This article examines four prominent young adult novels about bisexual protagonists: Julie Anne Peters’s It’s Our Prom (So Deal With It) (2012), Brent Hartinger’s Double Feature: Attack of the Soul-Sucking Brain Zombies/Bride of the Soul-Sucking Brain Zombies (2007), Lili Wilkinson’s Pink (2009), and Sara Ryan’s Empress of the World (2001). Defining bisexuality in terms of gender-plural sexual desire, it argues that narratives about bisexuals may impose essentializing identities, which resignify and redefine bisexuality through the use of stereotypes and the evasion of the sexuality and plurality of bisexual desire. By doing this, Peters and Hartinger, who represent the ideological middle ground in such narratives, ironically sustain the invisibility of bisexuality that they ostensibly resist. Of the novels by Wilkinson and Ryan, Wilkinson’s Pink is the most stereotypical and evasive example, while Ryan’s Empress of the World, at the other extreme, manages to avoid essentializing bisexuality, seeing it in terms of plural desires. If narratives of bisexuality are to help bisexual teenagers interpret their plural desires and fill the bisexual spaces or gaps in their worlds, it is argued that this necessitates a shift towards approaches, like Ryan’s, that recognize the variety and individuality of these teenagers.


Young adult literature Bisexuality LGBT fiction 



An early version of part of this article was presented at the “Talking Bodies: Identity, Sexuality, Representation” conference held at the University of Chester in 2013.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of EnglishUniversity of PretoriaHatfieldSouth Africa

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