Girls Growing Up Gordie: The Post-Apocalyptic Heroine and the Australian Girl Reader of Isobelle Carmody’s Obernewtyn Chronicles
McAlister, J, Girls Growing Up Gordie: The Post-Apocalyptic Heroine and the Australian Girl Reader of Isobelle Carmody's Obernewtyn Chronicles, Text, (32) pp. 1-15. ISSN 1327-9556 (2015) [Refereed Article]
Australian young adult (YA) fiction has a post-apocalyptic tradition that considerably
pre-dates dystopia’s current global popularity. Long before characters like Katniss
Everdeen and Tris Prior emerged into mainstream popular consciousness, Australian
YA fiction gave us several strong heroines struggling for a better life in a postapocalyptic
setting. One such was Elspeth Gordie of Isobelle Carmody’s Obernewtyn
Chronicles. The Obernewtyn Chronicles are unusual in that they have been published
across a considerable span of time. The first book was published in 1987, while the
final instalment is not due to be published until the end of 2015. Numerous readers of
the series have, in many ways, grown up with it: discovering it as pre-teens or
teenagers, and continuing to follow it into adulthood. The first Obernewtyn fan site –
obernewtyn.net – was established in 1999, and continues to be active to this day.
However, despite the current popularity of texts like The Hunger Games and
Divergent, the Obernewtyn Chronicles are not especially well known outside
Australia. This article will explore the ways in which fans interact with and respond
to the Obernewtyn books, and the ways in which this has evolved and changed. It will
investigate two key questions. Why have the Obernewtyn Chronicles appealed so
strongly to an Australian audience? And why have they appealed so strongly to a girl
audience? I will draw on several different critical theories to unpack this appeal,
including postcolonial theory, feminist theory, girlhood studies, and autoethnography.
I will also integrate this with reader-response theory, looking closely at
the responses of readers who began reading these books as children and who are
continuing to engage with them decades later.