Great Friendships in YA Books
Guest Post: Stephanie Tran
Friendship is an important aspect of my life, and probably of the lives of many people reading this post. Humans are born with the desire to socialise and to communicate, and thrive better if they are surrounded by people. Yes, there may be some cases where individuals hate the prospect of socialising (like myself sometimes), but they still usually desire someone to support them and to be there for them. Therefore, I think it is important to have healthy friendships represented in young adult books.
In a lot of the books I read when I first became interested in YA female friendships were unhealthily represented. They depicted girls hating each other because of a guy, or girls just being mean to each other and not supporting one another. They showed boys as bullies and stereotyped them – declaring that boys were all players and heartless and rarely looked out for each other, either. I guess that this is the case for some people, but I know that many males would not like to see their friendships represented in such a way, because we’re most all making an effort to have good relationships with people. Plus, some of my friends are males and are the nicest people ever.
I want to point out that friendship should be based on respect for one another – it’s equality in a way. It shouldn’t be one person being the leader and the other doing whatever they say, or someone doing something to purposefully hurt the other person. I find this to be a common theme in books. One character is the leader and orders everyone else around and gets away with hurting their friends, whether it’s intentional or unintentional. However, this is not what friendship is, and I want that to change in YA. Healthy friendships should depict characters looking out for each other, recognising the hurt they’ve done to another, and show friends having equal say in the things they do together.
Due to depictions of unhealthy friendships in YA, I expected a similar reality when I transitioned into high school. I expected to have people who would be mean to me or bully me for my love of reading and learning, but it wasn’t like that at all. Reality was completely different to the books, and that shocked me. I found my high school to be friendly and welcoming, the students to be kind and I have formed great friends who support me, and vice versa.
Books have had a huge impact on my life because they helped me perceive the world differently; I can see issues from more than one perspective. But reading books with poor friendship representation affected my perception of high school negatively. Therefore, it is important that young adult books show healthy friendships, because books influence us and to see healthy friendships helps teenagers, and also anyone else, learn that friends should support each other, and be there for one another to lean on.
I’d also like more books to be published about friendships. Not enough books are about friendships; most are about love interests and some are about family. While family is important, I feel it has a different feeling in writing than writing about friends because you independently become friends with people. Forming strong friendships, especially during high school, is important in one’s life because it is the time where you start choose who you want to stay in your life and you learn how to remove toxic people. This is the time when you also learn what treatment to expect and deserve from friendships; something that is of great importance as friends contribute to the improvement of our wellbeing.
Anyways, I thought I’d share a list of books that I think show great friendships. I’m not saying they’re perfect, because let’s be real: no book is 100% perfect. But these friendships are ones that I adore and love because they depict healthy relationships and the characters have certain qualities that make you fall in love with their relationships.
Juliette and Kenji from the Shatter Me series by Tahereh Mafi
I adore the friendship between these two. At first, they were just two people training together, but along the way, they became best friends and were supportive of one another. I want to say more but their friendship is more prominent in the second and third book of the series and I don’t want to spoil anything so go and read it to understand!
Steffi and Tem from A Quiet Kind of Thunder by Sara Barnard
I enjoyed reading the relationship these two girls had. They were friends from a young age and Tem understood Steffi, despite Steffi’s lack of speech due to her selective mutism. They faced ups and downs but were able to overcome all, which I think is important in relationships, be it with family, friends or partners. Everyone should learn to solve their disagreements, rather than let it destroy their relationship.
The Dregs from Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo
Six people and one epic adventure that made them all closer. I loved how close they all were and how much they cared for each other, even if some of them didn’t show it. Nina and Inej’s friendship was a beautiful example of a healthy female friendship; they were supportive of each other, cared deeply for one another and backed each other up. Yay for girl power. I’m going to admit that most of them aren’t actually friends at the start, but you can clearly see how far their relationships have come by the end of the novel.
The Inner Circle from A Court of Mist and Fury by Sarah J. Maas
I am firstly going to say that this series is problematic, but it does show healthy friendships. Before Feryre entered the scene, it was clear that the members of the Inner Circle were close to each other and cared for each other. You could see that they would kill to protect one another. And the ending shows the strength of their friendships (let’s just say I cried) and how willing they were to risk their lives for each other.
Cath and Reagan from Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell
Cath and Reagan’s friendship is so genuine and realistic. Cath is an introvert who has social anxiety and Reagan is outgoing and can be mean. But they make a perfect duo because they balance each other out. They can rely on each other and support one another.
My name is Stephanie (aka @literaryreads) and I am a 17 year old Australian bibliophile who dreams of travelling the world. I enjoy reading novels and aim to read a variety of genres. My favourite genres are: Fantasy, Contemporary, YA, Dystopian and Historical Fiction and any diverse book but I still read a mixture of other genres. Besides reading, I also love to listen to music, write stories, daydream and swim during summer. I also enjoy meeting new people so feel free to talk to me.
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