Girl Talk: Adolescent Magazines and Their Readers


362 pages
Contains Bibliography, Index
ISBN 0-8020-8217-3
DDC 051'.0835'2




Susannah D. Ketchum is a teacher-librarian at the Bishop Strachan School
in Toronto. She also serves on the Southern Ontario Library Services


Girl Talk is an annoyingly difficult read, filled with long paragraphs
(some running more than a page), convoluted sentences, and academic
jargon like “dialogical,” “facticity,” and “polysemic.” The
turgid prose is the author’s means of expressing her exhaustive
content analysis of four high-circulation teenage magazines: Seventeen,
Young and Modern (YM), Sassy, and Teen. Currie concludes from this
analysis that teenzines—her term for “fashion and beauty magazines
produced specifically for adolescent readers”—deliberately
perpetuate patriarchal, heterosexual stereotypes and encourage economic
consumption. She notes that three regular themes in advice columns are
“Beauty, Boys, and the Body,” and points out that answers to
scientific and/or medical questions are almost always dispensed by male
professionals. On the topic of beauty, the author identifies extensive
use of “advertorials”—advice suggesting name-brand products as
solutions to the “real-life” problems purportedly posed by genuine

Going beyond content analysis, Currie breaks new ground by questioning
how the readers themselves react to the content she has identified.
Research assistants interviewed 91 girls who had been recruited to
participate in a study of teenage fashion culture. After eliminating
many interviews for a variety of reasons, Currie analyzed the remaining
48. Her analysis betrays an apparent unfamiliarity with the world of
teenagers. She talks of the “limited avenues of self-expression for
adolescents in our culture,” totally ignoring drama, sports, music,
and many other possible outlets. She is also surprised by the “way in
which self-doubt often ‘leaked’ into [the interviews].”

Early on, Currie notes that “although over 26 percent of all adult
women in Britain read Women’s Own, this publication has never been
subjected to the level of investigation which surrounds texts such as
the Times, read by a mere 1.9 per cent of the population.” In her
conclusion, she predicts that “[i]n all likelihood, Girl Talk will
spend most of its days on a library shelf.” Unfortunately, she is
probably right. Adolescents are much more vulnerable than most adult
women, and Currie has developed some interesting tools for looking at
their environment. Her research begs further study, but how many readers
will be willing to tackle her often unintelligible prose so that they
can learn from and pursue her studies?

Recommended, with serious reservations, for social scientists,
librarians, and teachers.


Currie, Dawn H., “Girl Talk: Adolescent Magazines and Their Readers,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed April 16, 2024,