Open Access Te Herenga Waka-Victoria University of Wellington
thesis_access.pdf (733.3 kB)

New Zealand Young Adult Fiction: National Myths, Identity and Coming-of-age

Download (733.3 kB)
Version 2 2023-09-26, 23:59
Version 1 2021-12-08, 16:50
posted on 2023-09-26, 23:59 authored by Manker, Tina

Tara, the 17-year-old narrator of Dear Vincent by Mandy Hager, struggles in the relationship with her mother and learns about her family’s past on a trip to Ireland. She must decide whether she follows in the footsteps of her sister who died by suicide or whether she chooses life for herself and what her life will look like. Whiti Hereaka’s Bugs follows the development of Bugs, who turns 17 about half-way through the novel. She faces low expectations and institutional discrimination at school and must make decisions about her future. While Bugs chooses to stay; her personal growth is like that of Tara who leaves. In Kate De Goldi’s The 10PM Question, we engage with 12-year-old Frankie, who struggles with anxiety and a permanently house-bound mother. Like the protagonists of the other novels, Frankie must determine who he is by forming his first strong friendship with a teenager of the opposite sex and by questioning the adults around him. He, too, must make decisions which contradict the actions of his family. All three, Tara, Bugs and Frankie, are supported in this process by friends and extended family, and, as we will see, these characters come to play crucial roles in each protagonist’s identity formation.  What this thesis shows is that their stories are both universal and local. All three novels include common elements of Young Adult fiction about identity formation and coming-of-age and they are firmly located in New Zealand by way of incorporating uniquely New Zealand national myths. These myths shape our collective identities and adolescence is a time when teenagers form theirs. It is during this time that they explicitly notice and, at times, question the myths that they have been raised to believe in. This thesis is concerned with Overseas Experience (OE) as a way to develop one’s sense of self and broadening one’s horizons, the egalitarian myth or the belief that ‘we are all equal here’, and the ‘she’ll be right’ myth, the assumption that things will somehow right themselves. It seeks to explore what these novels suggest about the three different national myths of New Zealand and their role in identity formation. It will also discuss whether different views are presented.


Copyright Date


Date of Award



Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

Rights License


Degree Discipline

English Literature

Degree Grantor

Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

Degree Level


Degree Name

Master of Arts

Victoria University of Wellington Unit

International Institute of Modern Letters

ANZSRC Type Of Activity code


Victoria University of Wellington Item Type

Awarded Research Masters Thesis



Victoria University of Wellington School

School of English, Film, Theatre and Media Studies


Ricketts, Harry; Walls, Kathryn