Monique Shephard

Proposed title

Adolescent responses to depictions of mental health in Australian contemporary young adult fiction.


It has been increasingly recommended that reading contemporary young adult literature (YAL) in the classroom will benefit students with low literacy, or can improve engagement for those who lack the tenacity to tackle texts from the literary canon, however YAL also offers a unique springboard for discussion of many current issues that impact young people. From the environment, diverse cultural histories, and issues faced by the young LGBTIQA+ community, YAL offers an opportunity for considered reflection and discussion in the English classroom as a means to challenge norms and reframe individuality. This research proposes that this conversation could be extended to adolescent mental illness, a relatively silent contributor to social exclusion in high school. Through their first-person narrative, contemporary young adult novels facilitate identification with characters exhibiting different realities to oneself, and this has been shown to be have positive impacts on empathy and understanding of others and may help to reduce stigma.

This research takes a disability studies focus using a grounded theory method to analyse adolescent views of one Contemporary Young Adult text when studied as part of the English curriculum in the Year 10 classroom. The aim is to understand the adolescent response to mental health as depicted in the text, so that can then be considered for the use of others in the classroom context.

Why I chose Charles Sturt

After completing a Bachelor of Arts and Master of Arts (Interpretive Writing) via distance education through Charles Sturt, I was seeking to focus my research on the benefits of children's literature – in particular texts for adolescents, Charles Sturt offered the right mix of expertise to facilitate my interdisciplinary research – Dr Mark Macleod (children's and young adult literature); Dr Cate Thomas (Social Work, with a strong methodological grounding), and Dr Kasey Garrison (Information Studies and young adult literature).

Engagement and memberships

  • Australasian Children's Literature Association for Research (ACLAR) member (2016 – current)
  • Faculty of Arts and Education Research and Graduate Studies Management Committee HDR Representative (2016 – 2019)
  • School of Humanities and Social Sciences School Research Management Committee (2017 – 2018)
  • Booranga Writers' Centre Committee (2010 – current)
  • Riverina Conservatorium of Music – Vice-Chair, Board of Directors (2005 – 2018)


  • Shephard, Monique (2016) "Power in the Counsellor's Office: Who has it?" Paper presented at "Shifting landscapes: Diversity, text, young people." Australian Children's Literature Association for Research conference. Wagga Wagga (July).
  • Shephard, Monique (2018) “They are asking for it! Mental health and YAL in the English classroom” Paper presented at "Houses of Learning: Education in Children’s Literature and Children’s Literature as Education". Australian Children's Literature Association for Research conference. Wellington, New Zealand (July).
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