Calls for Manuscript Submissions

Calls for Manuscript Submissions

posted in: TAR Calls | 0

 Exploring Adolescent Neurodiversity and Mental Health in YA Literature

Volume 47: Issue 3 (Spring 2020)

Submissions due: November 1, 2019

Approximately one third of adolescents nationwide show symptoms of depression, and one of five adolescents has a diagnosable mental health disorder. Suicide is the third leading cause of death in 15- to 24-year-olds, and the majority of adolescents who attempt suicide have a significant mental health disorder, usually depression.Yet teen depression, anxiety, and other mental health illnesses may go unrecognized, misunderstood, or ignored by teachers and other adults, and an ongoing stigma regarding mental health illnesses inhibits some adolescents and their families from seeking help.

As YA author A.S. King shared at the 2018 ALAN Breakfast, her teenage daughter’s depression was often written off by teachers and other adults as “drama and a need for attention.” Fortunately, authors of young adult literature have begun to explore issues associated with mental health in the genre, confronting the stigma of mental illness head-on while presenting narratives of inclusion, validation, hope, agency, and empowerment for adolescent readers. For this call, we are interested in hearing from you about the YA literature depicting adolescent mental health and neurodiversity you are reading, teaching, and using in your research. We invite correspondence about ideas for articles, and submission of completed manuscripts. Here’s a partial list of topics, meant only to suggest the range of our interests for this issue:

  • How can young adult literature help us navigate conversations in our classrooms and communities about what it means to see and experience the world in different ways? How can young adult literature help us think about the idea that neurological differences (e.g., ADHD, depression, anxiety, autism) should be recognized and respected as any other human variation? What does it mean to be a “normal” human being? What does it mean to be abnormal, disordered, or sick?
  • Neuroscience increasingly identifies the complexity of human brains, and is beginning to shift cultural perceptions of mental health. Some psychologists explore and celebrate mental differences under the rubric of neurodiversity. The term encompasses those with Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), autism, schizophrenia, depression, dyslexia, and other disorders affecting the mind and brain. The proponents of neurodiversity argue that there are positive aspects to having brains that function differently. But others, including many parents of affected youth, focus on the difficulties and suffering brought on by these conditions. What experiences of adolescent mental health and neurodiversity–and discursive constructions of neurodiverse youth–are presented in young adult literature?
  • Whose stories are being told, and by whom? Whose stories are missing?
  • Do YA books stigmatize, romanticize, and/or normalize adolescent mental health and neurodiversity? What are the dangers of these representations?
  • How can young adult literature help us examine and better understand the intersectional identities (e.g., race, class, [dis]ability, gender, religion, age, geography, sexual orientation) of neurodiverse adolescents?
  • How do TV and movie adaptations of YA novels depicting adolescent mental health and neurodiversity (e.g., the Netflix series “Thirteen Reasons Why”) affect readers’ understandings of adolescent mental health? What intertextual connections about adolescent mental health can be drawn from multiple representations of the same story?
  • Popular YA author John Green admits to writing his own mental illness into his latest novel,  Turtles All the Way Down, explaining that “having OCD is an ongoing part of my life.” Similarly, in Jessica Burkhart’s edited collection Life Inside My Mind: 31 Authors Share Their Personal Struggles, YA author Sara Zarr describes her ongoing struggles with depression (“Sometime between getting out of bed and standing in front of the coffeepot, I feel the cloud…Maybe more like quicksand than a cloud….I feel fear and worthlessness, or fear that I’m worthless” [p. 260]). In the same collection, YA author Francisco X. Stork describes his own suicide attempt and experiences with bipolar disorder (“When I talk about bipolar disorder, I use words like ‘loneliness’ and ‘uncontrollable longing’ rather than words like ‘depression’ and ‘mania’ because the former are more descriptive of what I actually feel, even though depression is a bundle of feelings and thoughts more complicated than loneliness, and mania is more than irrepressible longing” [p. 284]). We wonder: When YA authors disclose their own struggles with mental health, how does this impact teen readers?

All submissions may be sent to Please see the ALAN website ( for submission guidelines.

Are You There, God? It’s Me, a Secularist, Humanist, Areligious, Questioning, Gay Committed Christian, Atheist: Adolescence and Religion in YAL

Volume 48: Issue 1 (Fall 2020)

Submissions due: March 1st, 2020

Former TAR editors Wendy Glenn, Ricki Ginsberg, and Danielle King asked teachers, researchers, and other YA advocates to consider the questions, “What’s Now? What’s New? What’s Next?” in their final issue, published in 2019. TAR readers responded, writing predominantly about religion and areligion (not influenced by or practicing religion) in YAL. A year later, we wonder: how are diverse adolescents and their a/religious or atheist affiliations, beliefs, and practices represented in the YA genre? How are a/religious and atheist teen characters portrayed? What religious affiliations get dominant positive representation in YAL? Who gets to be a/religious or atheist in YAL? Do adolescent agnostics, humanists, non-believers, questioners, and skeptics get any attention in the genre? Why does religion (especially areligion and atheism) in YAL still seem like a taboo topic?

We invite correspondence about ideas for articles, and submission of completed manuscripts. We would especially love to hear from teens about how they feel about the portrayal of a/religion or atheism in YAL, if they find a/religion or atheism to be of a central importance in YAL, and why.  Here’s a partial list of topics, meant only to suggest the range of our interests for this issue:

  • Is religion still a taboo topic in YAL? If so, why? Longtime YA scholar and advocate Patty Campbell has claimed the greatest of all taboos in YAL is religion. In a recent (2018) New York Times article, YA author Donna Freitas shared: “This feeling of mine — that a YA writer had best stay away from the topic of faith — is elusive, a kind of vapor that began swirling around me a decade ago when I wrote my first YA novel, ‘The Possibilities of Sainthood,’ about a Catholic girl who longs to become the first living saint… Being too overt about religion in a YA novel seemed a mistake, maybe even an act of self-sabotage — unless one is writing about cults or lampooning religion.” Why does writing about a/religion in YAL seem off-limits?
  • In Patrick Ness’s Release, Adam Thorn grapples with love and heartbreak while living under strict rules in an Evangelical household where he hears “I love you, but…” from his family who have always struggled to believe Adam “might be a bit gay.” The religious teachings of his father and the lack of general acceptance from his family force Adam to question if the love he felt for his ex, Enzo, was real love: “Because what if they were right? What if there was something wrong with him? What if, on some level, way deep inside, right down to the very simplest, purified form of what he was, what if he was corrupted?” Manuel, an openly gay teen and committed Christian also has some thoughts on love in Alex Sanchez’s God Box. Manuel tells his closeted lover, Paul: “Pablito, the Bible was meant to be a bridge, not a wedge. It’s the greatest love story ever told, about God’s enduring and unconditional love for his creation–love beyond all reason. To understand it, you have to read it with love as the standard. Love God. Love your neighbor. Love yourself. Always remember that.” Finally, Julia Watts’ YA novel Quiver, presents Libby, an evangelical Christian and Zo, her feminist, gender fluid neighbor who must both navigate their families’ cultural differences to fight for their friendship. What can readers learn from YAL about how to navigate romance, friendship, family values and beliefs, AND multiple intersectional adolescent identities that include gender identity and expression, sexual orientation, and fundamentalist religious affiliations?
  • Why is religion so divisive? Religion can be used as a weapon or to exploit and oppress. How can we use YAL to talk about what religion is and isn’t? How can YAL show us how to bridge differences and create unity rather than disunity? A claim of the field of young adult literature is its power to be a window or sliding glass door (Bishop, 1990) into unfamiliar cultures.  Can YAL encourage its readers to be more empathetic towards individuals from different religious backgrounds and to be more understanding of other religious perspectives? What would this look like in scholarship, pedagogy, or in a YAL novel?
  • Atheism is featured in several YA novels, including Darius the Great is Not Okay, by Adib Khorram; Heretics Anonymous, by Katie Henry; Blind Faith, by Ellen Wittlinger; A Brief Chapter in My Impossible Life, by Dana Reinhardt; Godless, by Pete Hautman; and Tina’s Mouth: An Existential Comic Diary by Keshni Kashyap. How can these YA novels be used to better understand atheist affiliations and beliefs? Why do teens choose to be atheist or areligious? What can we learn from these teens about the limits of religion? Where do these teens find community and connectedness?
  • Volume 46, Issue 3 of TAR focused on the representations of Christianity in YAL and we wonder, how does the field of YAL take up non-Christian or non-dominant religious affiliations? What would it look like to have an American Muslim protagonist whose religious beliefs are not defined as threats of terrorism? Do texts like this exist? In The Serpent King by Jeff Zentner, parishioners of the protagonist, Dill’s, Pentecostal church handle serpents, drink poison as a sign of faith, and are thusly positioned as stereotypical, ignorant, small-town Southerners. How can YAL be used to “talk back to” too simplistic, limiting, problematic portrayals of religion in the genre?

All submissions may be sent to Please see the ALAN website ( for submission guidelines.