Date on Honors Thesis

Spring 5-2019


English Education

Examining Committee Member

Deborah Bell, PhD, Advisor

Examining Committee Member

Andy Black, PhD, Committee Member

Examining Committee Member

Barbara Cobb, PhD, Committee Member


As high school curriculum in the 21st century evolves, the need to increase exposure of diverse literature that reflects culture, gender, and ethnicity is growing. One crucial area often overlooked by educators, parents, and publishers is literature that provides attention to mental illness, in spite of the growing amount of adolescents who suffer from a mental illness. By increasing awareness of mental illness in the classrooms, teachers can reduce stigma and increase empathy in their students while still providing challenging and engaging literary interactions. One of the best vehicles to deliver mental illness and stigma education is young adult literature because of its relatable and engaging content. The texts explored in this thesis are Laurie Halse Anderson’s The Impossible Knife of Memory, John Green’s Turtles All the Way Down, Jennifer Niven’s All the Bright Places, and Neal Shusterman’s Challenger Deep. Each of these texts can be integrated within a high school English classroom, valuable in their presentation of complex characters, extensive use of figurative language, and treatment of mental illness. This thesis provides a summary of the texts’ presentation of mental illness and an exploration of literary elements. Moreover, this thesis also provides a variety of educational activities, cross-curricular pairings, and canonical pairings for these young adult texts when included in a high school English curriculum. Finally, this thesis includes the outline for a project-based, multimodal unit plan intended for a high school English classroom that integrates the four texts mentioned above with informational and canonical texts.