Friday, January 03, 2014

Psychology in YA - Identity

As most of you know by now, I'm currently studying part-time for a degree in Psychology. It's something that I find really fascinating and since I started studying the subject I've become more aware of how psychology is everywhere in our lives - from language and memory and behaviours. And so I thought that it might be fun to write a little bit about a combination of my two favourite things ... psychology and young adult literature.  I was looking through some of my favourite books and authors and I realised that there are strong elements of psychology that is involved in all of my favourite books and I wanted to explore that in more depth! 

So today in this first blog post (in hopefully a series of blog posts to do with psychology and YA!) I wanted to talk about some of my favourite authors who write about identity. 

Luisa Plaja 

I really all of the books of Luisa Plaja's that I've read... they're all funny and interesting with great characters and relationships. But in particular, I really love Split By A Kiss and Swapped By A Kiss books. 

Split By A Kiss is the story of a girl who has just moved to the US from the UK and is facing this massive choice after the hottest boy in school kisses her.  Does she carry on hanging out with the popular crowd or reject him and be true to her nerdy self?  In that decisive moment, Jo's story splits into two, Sliding-Doors style.  And in the process of working through the highs and lows of both decisions, she finds out more about herself and what's important. 

And in Swapped By A Kiss, as the title suggests, the story revolves around a body-swap between two very different girls - Jo and Rachel - after another very monumental kiss! It's such a great book and it explores identity in a very fun way!

I loved the combination of humour and romance in Luisa's books and also how they've always made me think as well.

Sophia Bennett 

I adore Sophia Bennett's books. I've only read the first book in the Threads trilogy so far but 2014 is definitely the year that I will finish this series.  It's really The Look and You Don't Know me that I wanted to talk about in this blog post anyway.  I love the way in which identity is a central aspect of both of these books.

In The Look,  we get to see how much Ted Trout's appearance plays a big part in her confidence and how she sees herself. I loved that Ted's inner warrior princess makes an appearance and helps Ted. I also really love her relationship with her sister, Ava.

And in You Don't Know Me, there's so much about how influential friendships are and not letting what other people online and in real life affect your friendships or the person that you are. In this book, Sasha is always trying to make the best of a bad situation and I loved witnessing her take back some control over the cyber-bullying she faces and turns them into moving song lyrics.

Laura Jarratt

Laura Jarratt is definitely a recent author that has been added to my favourites list and this is mostly because of how beautiful and emotional her writing style is but also because of the way in which identity is addressed in her books.

In Skin Deep, both main characters, Jenna and Ryan are facing difficult times with how they appear to other people. Jenna because of her scars after being in an accident and Ryan faces judgement because he is a traveller.  I especially loved how much Jenna's confidence grows throughout the book and how much her relationship with Ryan helps her to realise that she is more than just the scars that are left on her body.

And By Any Other Name is all about different aspects of identity - Holly is forced into the witness protection programme after witnessing a crime and in doing so much start over somewhere new, with a new name and a different family background to the one she knew.  In her new school, Holly tries on different personality traits and behaviours.  Is a person who they are because of a name? or because of their personal history? or is it down to choices and behaviours? I love how much identity is explored in this book and especially how other secondary characters reinforce this as well.

Laura Jarratt, Sophia Bennett and Luisa Plaja are three of my favourite authors and I will always be excited to read their books!

Are there any books you've read recently that has explored identity in a really great way?


  1. Ooh, really interesting post! I completely agree with you about Luisa Plaja and Sophia Bennett, and although I haven't read any of Laura Jarratt's books yet I'll definitely keep an eye out for them ;)

    1. Oh you definitely need to read Skin Deep and By Any Other Name! :)

  2. A fabulous idea for a series, I love books that make me think and it's only recently occurred to me to look at the psychology behind it so I'm fascinated.

    I've read a few of the books mentioned and can see why you love them! :)

    1. Thanks, Jesse! It was a fun post to write, I'm glad people have enjoyed reading it :)

  3. Very interesting Michelle, I love it :) Definitely agree with you on Sophia Bennett, I have The Look to read so will be interesting with that in mind ;)

  4. I studied a lot of criminal psychology with a humanities teacher last year in extra classes. I love the subject, really interesting! Luisa Plaja's books didn't really look like they appealed to me from the covers, but actually, now you've explained those aspects, I really want to read them :) Laura Jarratt's latest book is amazing, too. I really need to read Skin Deep...
    Others I recommend! Flip is more of an identity book, but it was really great. Also, More Than This is genius. I must read Sophia Bennett's books sometime, they look really great. :)
    -Georgia :)

    1. I tried reading More Than This recently and couldn't really get into it. I'm sure I'll try again soon though. You really should read Luisa's books, they're really good! As is Skin Deep! :)

  5. This is such a great idea for a series! Psychology is fascinating and I'm thinking of taking it for A Level but the only thing putting me off is that I really don't like science. The social side is so interesting though, and it's great to see it in books.

    Luisa Plaja's books are obviously fantastic and I really want to re-read them now. I haven't read Sophia Bennet's books but I keep meaning to - I have The Look on my TBR pile.

    Thanks for posting! :)

    1. I'm not a big fan of the actual sciencey bits either, but I'm getting through it :)

      I really hope you love The Look as much as I did!


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