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Year of Graduation


Document Type


Degree Name

MA: Children's Literature

Directing Professor

Lisa Rowe Fraustino


Young adult novels featuring protagonists with Bipolar Disorder (BD) remain rare, but these novels are important given the prevalence of BD among adolescent populations. Seventeen novels featuring a female protagonist diagnosed with BD were published prior to 2021, and this thesis examines those bipolar narratives within the context of related genres such as “sick lit” and mood memoirs, paying special attention to role parents play in these stories. Bipolar narratives typically focus on the protagonist’s journey with their disorder; they depict medication as essential for the management of BD, and the plots often include a period of medication noncompliance which demonstrates the consequences of experiencing BD without medication. Parents, acting as allies or antagonists, may support or hinder their daughters as they learn to live with BD. Jeff Garvin’s The Lightness of Hands and Heidi Heilig’s Shadow Players novels depict more complex parental relationships, which allow for the growth and independence of the protagonists. Both stories feature characters who live with BD, but who are not defined by their disorder. The plots in these novels focus on events unrelated to mental illness without downplaying the significance of mental illness in the characters’ lives, and the parents in these novels provide flawed but sincere support to their daughters. Both stories present a protagonist who, with the support of family, takes ownership over her disorder and lives a life that is not defined by BD, without denying the role the disorder plays in her life.