Daughters of The Handmaid’s Tale: Reproductive Rights in YA Dystopian Fiction


  • Ilona Urquhart Deakin University, Australia




reproductive rights, young adult fiction, dystopias in fiction, adolescent sexuality in fiction, feminism


The election of President Trump in the US has reignited discussions regarding reproductive rights and renewed interest in Margaret Atwood’s 1984 dystopian novel, The Handmaid’s Tale, which depicts a future society in which women are stripped of these rights. However, the novel does not explore how threats to reproductive rights might affect teenage girls. The gap left in Atwood’s novel has been filled by authors of dystopias for young adults who foreground the double threat to teenage girls because of their sex and age. This paper discusses the way in which these novels show teenage girls resisting against societies that seek to dictate how they use their bodies, with Megan McCafferty’s Bumped and Thumped having a particularly strong political edge. Through the insights of feminist critic Drucilla Cornell, this paper shows that the challenges to characters’ reproductive rights in these texts may encourage readers to consider themselves as sexual subjects and take responsibility for that sexual subject, even if it requires political action.

Author Biography

Ilona Urquhart, Deakin University, Australia

Ilona Urquhart (PhD, Deakin University) currently teaches in the discipline of children’s literature at Deakin University and assists Deakin University’s Teenagers Reading and Digital Practices Research Group. She has a strong interest in the provision of books and other resources for young adults in libraries. Her research interests include feminism in YA fiction, Gothic YA fiction and domestic noir.


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How to Cite

Urquhart, I. (2018) “Daughters of The Handmaid’s Tale: Reproductive Rights in YA Dystopian Fiction”, Papers: Explorations into Children’s Literature, 26(1), pp. 1–21. doi: 10.21153/pecl2018vol26no1art1087.