Document Type

Thesis - Open Access

Award Date


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)

Department / School

English and Interdisciplinary Studies

First Advisor

Steven Wingate


According to Young Adult Library Services, “Young Adult Literature is a genre that is separate from Children's Literature. It emerged in the twentieth century when teenagers became a powerful force of the economy in the 1930s and gained prominence in the sixties.” Various sources list common elements that make YA literature a distinct category. 1) YA books appeal to the interests of readers from ages twelve to eighteen. 2) YA books typically explore a teenage character’s entry into an unfamiliar “world.” 3) YA books usually feature a protagonist’s self-reflection on events that influence their forays into the adult world. 4) YA books reflect the maturity of the audience with the inclusion of violence, romance, and profanity, though there are lines only crossed in adult literature. The following thesis tracks my work to pen a modern YA novel that draws on these elements in an effort to create fiction capturing not only small-town attitudes accepting racism in a past era but also uses theme to tie those same attitudes to modern teens’ maturation amongst pressures unique to growing up in a small town. This fiction is intended to appeal to teens in the upper ages defined by YA elements, but the interest can fall beyond into the more modern phenomenon of YA readers moving up to age twenty-five and beyond (Doll; Graham). In Sticks and Stones, the protagonist, Barbara Wantalat, fights to break small-town stereotypes despite living in the middle of all of them. It’s 1985 in Kaskapi, South Dakota, where a group of young men and women embark on their senior year of high school as the small community watches and hopes for their success. An incident of racist behavior, an all-too-frequent occurrence in South Dakota among white youth toward Native Americans, acts as a catalyst to the tragedy that changes Barb’s life but fails to alter the underlying hate. The drafts of the novel’s chapters are woven between reflection on the creative experience through both research of the genre, insights from mentor texts, and the writer’s first-hand experience as a reader and teacher of young adult literature.

Library of Congress Subject Headings

Young adult fiction -- Authorship.
High school students -- South Dakota -- Fiction.
Race relations -- Fiction.


South Dakota State University



Rights Statement

In Copyright