Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)

Degree Granting Department

Childhood Education and Literacy Studies

Major Professor

James King, Ed.D.

Committee Member

Jenifer Schneider, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Patricia Jones, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Marc Santos, Ph.D.


hermeneutics, heteroglossia, reading, text complexity, text structure, writing


Within the genre of young adult literature, a growing trend is the use of epistolary messages through electronic methods between characters. These messages are set apart from the formal text of the narrative of the novel creating a break in the text features and layout of the page. Epistolary texts require a more sophisticated reading method and level of interpretation because the epistolary style blends multiple voices and points of view into the plot, creating complicated narration. The reader must navigate the narrator’s path in order to extract meaning from the text. In this hermeneutic study, I examined the text structures of three young adult novels that contained epistolary excerpts. I used ethnographic content analysis (Altheide 1987) to isolate, analyze, and then contextualize the different epistolary moments within the narrative of the novel. The study was guided by two research questions: 1. What types of text structures and features did authors of selected young adult literature with epistolary interruptions published since 2008 use across the body of the published work? 2. How did the authors of selected young adult literature situate the different text structures of interruption into the flow of the narrative? What happened after the interruption? I used a coding system that I developed from a case study of the novel Falling for Hamlet by Michelle Ray (2011). Through my analysis I found that the authors used specific verbs to announce an interruption. The interruptions, though few in number, require readers to consider context of the message for event, setting, speaker, purpose and tone as it relates within the message itself and the arc of the plot. In addition, following the interruptions, the reader must decide how to incorporate the epistolary interruption into the narrative as adding to the conflict, adding detail, ending a scene, or simply returning to the narrative. . Therefore, the interruptions in epistolary young adult novels incorporated the text or literacy practices of young adults. Such incorporation reflects the changes in literacy practices in the early 21st century that may render novels of this style a challenge to readers in creating meaning. The study further incorporates Bakhtin’s theory of heteroglossia (1980) that a novel does not contain a single language but a plurality of languages within a single langue and Dresang’s Theory of Radical Change (1999) of connectivity, interactivity, and access. Texts of this nature offer teachers of reading opportunities to guide students through text features to synthesize information in fiction and non-fiction texts.