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American Young Adult Novels and Their European Fairy-Tale Motifs

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Lucia Huang

No significant study of fairy-tale motifs in young adult literature exists as of today. American Young Adult Novels and Their European Fairy-Tale Motifs is the first organized study linking these two genres. This book examines fairy-tale motifs in eleven acclaimed young adult novels published in the 1980s. Five fairy-tale motifs appear in these novels. They are «the helper», «the unpromising hero/heroine», «abandoned children», «magic», and «deception».
The findings of this study suggest that English teachers in secondary schools could apply fairy-tale motifs in their teaching of young adult literature. Since students are familiar with fairy tales, using their motifs to interpret young adult novels is a reasonable approach and a good introduction to literary criticism. This method enables the students to compare different genres of literature, to figure out motifs that appear frequently in movies, plays, and television programs, and to appreciate literary works.