Out of Reach: The Ideal Girl in American Girls’ Serial Literature, 1st Edition (Hardback) book cover

Out of Reach

The Ideal Girl in American Girls’ Serial Literature, 1st Edition

By Kate G. Harper


150 pages

Purchasing Options:$ = USD
Hardback: 9780367330811
pub: 2019-11-25
SAVE ~$28.00
Available for pre-order. Item will ship after 25th November 2019

FREE Standard Shipping!


Out of Reach: The Ideal Girl in American Girls’ Serial Literature traces the journey of the ideal girl through American girls’ series in the twentieth century. Who is the ideal girl? In what ways does the trope of the ideal girl rely on the exclusion and erasure of Othered girls? How does the trope retain its power through cultural shifts? Drawing from six popular girls’ series that span the twentieth century, Kate G. Harper explores the role of girls’ series in constructing a narrow ideal of girlhood, one that is out of reach for the average American girl reader. Girls’ series reveal how, over time, the ideal girl trope strengthens and becomes naturalized through constant reiteration. From the transitional girl at the turn of the century in Dorothy Dale to the "liberated" romantic of Sweet Valley High, these texts provide girls with an appealing model of girlhood, urging all girls to aspire to the unattainable ideal. Out of Reach illuminates the ways in which the ideal girl trope accommodates social changes, taking in that which makes it stronger and further solidifying its core.

Table of Contents


  1. Introduction: An American Girl at Her Best
  2. A Girl of Today: Merging Models of Girlhood
  3. Who is Nancy Drew? The Arrival of the Great Girl Sleuth
  4. The Ideal Girl Goes to Work: Negotiating the Fractured Fifties
  5. The Baby-Sitters Club Sells Diversity
  6. Sweet Valley High Romances the Ideal Girl
  7. Conclusions

About the Author

Kate G. Harper holds a PhD (Arizona State University) and an MA (Georgia State University) in Women and Gender Studies. She has taught courses on gender in literature, popular culture, and daily life in the Departments of Women and Gender Studies at Arizona State University and the University of Colorado Boulder. She has previously published work on the Nancy Drew series in Girlhood Studies and is a coeditor of Girls’ Sexualities and the Media (2013).

About the Series

Children's Literature and Culture

Founding Editor and Series Editor 1994-2011: Jack Zipes

Series Editor, 2011-2018: Philip Nel


Founded by Jack Zipes in 1994, Children's Literature and Culture is the longest-running series devoted to the study of children’s literature and culture from a national and international perspective. Dedicated to promoting original research in children’s literature and children’s culture, in 2011 the series expanded its focus to include childhood studies, and it seeks to explore the legal, historical, and philosophical conditions of different childhoods. An advocate for scholarship from around the globe, the series recognizes innovation and encourages interdisciplinarity. Children's Literature and Culture offers cutting-edge, upper-level scholarly studies and edited collections considering topics such as gender, race, picturebooks, childhood, nation, religion, technology, and many others. Titles are characterized by dynamic interventions into established subjects and innovative studies on emerging topics.

Learn more…

Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings: