Girls on Fire

Transformative Heroines in Young Adult Dystopian Literature


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About the Book

Under the threat of climate change, corruption, inequality and injustice, Americans may feel they are living in a dystopian novel come to life. Like many American narratives, dystopian stories often focus on males as the agents of social change. With a focus on the intersections of race, gender, class, sexuality and power, the author analyzes the themes, issues and characters in young adult (YA) dystopian fiction featuring female protagonists—the Girls on Fire who inspire progressive transformation for the future.

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About the Author(s)

Sarah Hentges is an associate professor of American studies at the University of Maine at Augusta. She also teaches women’s and gender studies and maintains a blog and website at

Bibliographic Details

Sarah Hentges

Format: softcover (6 x 9)
Pages: 290
Bibliographic Info: 15 photos, appendices, notes, bibliography, index
Copyright Date: 2018
pISBN: 978-0-7864-9928-1
eISBN: 978-1-4766-3144-8
Imprint: McFarland

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments ix
Preface 1
Introduction: Girls on Fire 5

Part I: Excavating Theories and Legacies
One. Interdisciplinarity and Intersectionality: Modeling the Complex World 13
Two. Shaping Dystopic Literature as Young Adult, Feminist and Critical 22
Three. Girls’ Studies and Popular Culture: Segregated Feminisms 54
Interlude—Fangirling: A Passion for YA Dystopia    74

Part II: Excavating Fiction, Imagination and Application
Four. Contemporary Dystopia: Living the Future 78
Five. Themes, Patterns, Trends and Transgressions 111
Six. Othered Girls Toward Intersectional Futures 145
Seven. Off the Page and Into the World 199

Conclusion: Utopian Visions for Dystopian Realities 239
Appendix 1: Girls on Fire Books 243
Appendix 2: Something Like a Rating System 249
Chapter Notes 257
Bibliography 259
Index 271

Book Reviews & Awards

  • Girls on Fire really shines in Part I, where Hentges combines American studies, women’s and gender studies, and more traditional literary criticism to create an interdisciplinary framework that allows for a more nuanced interpretation of the many different themes and qualities of YA dystopian literature. …this book is a valuable addition to the literary criticism canon…currently one of the only texts that attempts to look at YA dystopian literature through an interdisciplinary lens”—Resources for Women’s and Gender Studies
  • “Loaded with powerful information and presented without pretension, the themes discussed in Girls on Fire are extremely timely and vitally important for all members of society, but especially to the young women that will rule the new world dawning on the horizon”—Spoiler Free Movie Sleuth