In this paper I will argue that while young adult readers may often be represented through ‘othering’ discourses that see them as ‘passive’, ‘uncritical’ consumers of ‘low-brow’, ‘throw-away’ texts, the realities of their reading lives are in fact more subtle, complex and dynamic. The paper explores the discourses about reading, identity and gender that emerged through discussions with groups of young adults, aged between 16 and 19, about their reading habits and practices. These discussions took place as part of a PhD research study of reading and reader identity in the context of further education in the Black Country in the West Midlands. Through these discussions the young adults offered insights into their reading cultures and the ‘functionality’ of their reading practices that contest the kinds of ‘distinction[s]’ that tend to situate them as the defining other to more ‘worthy’ or ‘valuable’ reading cultures and practices. While I will resist the urge to claim that this paper represents the cultures of young adult readers in any real or totalising sense I challenge the kinds of dominant, reductive representations that serve to fix and demonise this group and begin to draw a space within which playfulness and resistance are alternatively offered as ways of being for these readers.
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