Representations of Happiness in Comedic Young Adult Fiction: Happy Are the Wretched

  • Nerida Wayland
Keywords: comedy, young adult fiction, happiness, optimism, Ahmed, Sara, Alexie, Sherman, Berlant, Lauren, Brugman, Alyssa


Critical scholarship on happiness provides a way to read comedic young adult fiction that foregrounds and investigates representations of happiness. This paper draws on the work of Sara Ahmed and Lauren Berlant in order to explore the ways in which comedy interrogates social constructions of happiness that serve to exclude or to constrain young people who are portrayed as outsiders. The result is a narrative representation of individual subjectivity and of society that examines the promise of happiness and the fantasy of normative happiness scripts. In Sherman Alexie’s The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian and Alyssa Brugman’s Alex as Well, comedy functions to encourage a re-evaluation of happiness and to question its appeal.


DOI: 10.1353/jeu.2015.0025

Author Biography

Nerida Wayland

Nerida Wayland is a Ph.D. candidate in English at Macquarie University in Australia, from which she also holds a Master of Arts in Children’s Literature and a Bachelor of Arts, Diploma of Education. Her research explores the creative, pedagogic, and affective power of comedy in children’s literature.

How to Cite
Wayland, N. (2016). Representations of Happiness in Comedic Young Adult Fiction: Happy Are the Wretched. Jeunesse: Young People, Texts, Cultures, 7(2). Retrieved from