Monday, October 8, 2012

Even Grim Reapers and Cheerleaders Need Friends

by Kimberly MacCarron

Everybody needs a best friend, and I stress that.  Everybody.  No matter what kind of world you or your favorite characters live in—dystopian, an alternate reality or the real world—and regardless of the circumstances, you have to have a best friend who really, really knows you and accepts you.  Whether you’re a supernatural entity or just your average high school teen, you need a friend.  Someone to stand by you.  Walk with you.  Learn with you.

That’s what I love most about teen fiction.  But here’s the thing… 

I feel like friendships—especially among girls—are stronger and truer in paranormal stories than the contemporaries.  Usually in the contemporary books, I see way more of the cattiness and back stabbing and the common frenemies than I do in paranormals.  That made me wonder.  Does the conflict in contemporary stories always have to end up with a figurative knife in a friend's back? Is not everyday life filled to the brim with conflict?  Why do we put up with the friendships being the one thing sacrificed in many of these stories?  That got me wondering.  Again.  
Last year, some may recall, I had a little hissy fit about this very subject.  That teen girls don’t have enough great stories with positive friendships.  I have been on a quest this past year to find the YA stories that seem to have good friendships that strengthen the story and are not sacrificed in the end.  

And I’m happy to report that I’ve found a few. 

Contemporary:  Lara Chapman’s FLAWLESS.  Although the best friends are very different, they are loyal and truly love each other.  This story has depth and heart and amazing characters.  And I really loved the relationship that the main character has with her mom as well.  It’s not the usual angsty God-I-hate-my-mom type of thing.  Yay for Chapman!

Spy book:  Ally Carter’s Gallagher Girl series.  I cheated here.  Sorry.  I already knew about this series, but I did read the fifth book (OUT OF SIGHT, OUT OF TIME) in the series this year, so I’m counting it anyway. I love the friendships in this spy school, and they literally have each other’s backs. 

Paranormal:  No question.  It’s Darynda Jones’s new YA that just came out last week, DEATH AND THE GIRL NEXT DOOR.  The friendships in this book were fantastic!  I don’t want to give anything away, but…WOW!  Although there are two hot guys in the picture, that’s not the threesome I loved the most.  It was the friendship that the main character Lorelie McAlister has with her two best friends, Brooklyn and Glitch.  Talk about loyal, wonderful friends!  This book has everything but the kitchen sink.  And that will undoubtedly show up in the next book of the series.  I’ll have to wait until March though for DEATH, DOOM AND DETENTION.

Darker paranormal:  Maggie Steifvater’s THE RAVEN BOYS.  Granted, the friendships are mostly with the boys—hence the title—but they are an interesting set of friends, crossing all kinds of lines and boundaries.  I just wish that Blue Sargent, the main girl character, had a group of girlfriends who would have her back in the same way as the Raven boys have each other. 

These are just a few examples of friendships in teen fiction.  I’m not looking for an after-school special.  I’m not looking for a lesson on friendship.  I’m just looking for books to live up to the idea of friendship.  I want a book where the female character has friends she never has to doubt.  Friends who are fiercely loyal and love without shame.  Those are the stories I’m trying to find. 

Although most people think of the Pretender’s song, “I’ll Stand by You” as a romantic ballad, to me, it's about true friendship.  So, I’ll leave you with these words from the song: 

“When you’re standing at the crossroads and
Don’t know which path to choose, let me come along
‘cause even if you’re wrong
I’ll stand by you…I’ll stand by you
Won’t let nobody hurt you.  I’ll stand by you.
Take me in, into your darkest hour
And I’ll never desert you,
I’ll stand by you.”

If I weren’t such a computer idiot, I’d do some fancy thing like embed the song into this here blog, but you can just go ahead and find it yourself.  There’s your challenge.  You won’t regret it.  Go forth and listen.  Then go forth on your quest and find me some good YA books with strong friendships. 

Report back, Grasshopper.  I'm looking for another good book.

Kimberly MacCarron


Melissa Landers said...

Great post, Kim! So many of the books you've mentioned are in my TBR pile. I love a good friendship!

Kimberly said...

I've read a bunch of YA books this year. Many of them were fantastic, but these four had friendships that struck me the most. I know you're busy with your own book coming out, but try to read them. :-)

Lorie Langdon said...

Excellent post, Kim. A book I really enjoyed this year also had a unique friendship; Darker Still by Leanna Renee Hieber. The protag developes a strong friendship with an older woman. I love this because it shows your bestie doesn't have to be a mirror image of yourself. :)

Kimberly said...

I'll have to read that one! I love that type of book. My first book I ever wrote had a strong friendship between a young character and an older woman. It has continued to be my favorite relationship! Hmmm. Should I resurrect that? LOL.
Thanks for the recommendation, Lorie! I will definitely get that one today!

Avery Flynn said...

Great topic. I have to go with The Outsiders. Sure, it's mostly all guys but it's an amazing look at friendship and coming into your own.

Kimberly said...

I agree! I love those boys! And that was the source of my hissy fit last year. I want that kind of friendship for the girls out there. That complicated, deep and true friendship--where you know each other's weaknesses and accept them just the same. Thanks for stopping by. I'm trying to get my girls to read that book now. I think I might have to reread it myself. It was one of my favorites. And the movie....ahhh. Could they throw in any more cuties? I don't think so!

Shelley Coriell said...

Nice post, Kim! Made me think of The Traveling Pants series. Such strong, enduring friendships. Hugs and happy writing!

Kimberly said...

Thanks, Shelley! I have yet to read that series...
*hangs head in shame*
But I'm going to! That's one on my list. Thanks for the recommendation!
Happy Writing to you as well. Thanks for stopping by.

Pintip said...

Kim, Great post and great examples! (And thanks for the reminder to read DEATH AND THE GIRL NEXT DOOR.) I recently read THE FUTURE OF US by Jay Asher and Carolyn Mackler. It is about a group of four friends, two girls and two boys. Despite romantic entanglements between the boys and girls, the group friendship remains strong and true. There is also steadfast friendship between the two girls as well as the two boys. It is told in alternative first person POV's (one of the girls and one of the boys). I think you would enjoy it!

Kimberly said...

Thanks, Pintip! I will definitely put that on my list. It sounds awesome. That's just the kind of story I would love. Thanks for stopping by with the recommendation. :-)

Tammy Baumann said...

Nice Post Kim.

I’m looking forward to reading Darynda’s next book. And I’m thinking you’d be the perfect gal to write that YA with strong female friendships!

So get busy!! ;0)

Jennifer McAndrews said...

Fabulous post, Kim! I'd never before considered the idea that the paranormal titles seem to have stronger friendships than the contemps -- fascinating! And makes me feel better about my trouble with thinking of books with strong friendships; I keep coming up with paranormal titles (that is, if you'd consider the Harry Potter stories paranormal? Those include marvelous friendships, imo). As for contemporary... the strongest friendship story I've read recently is really a historical, CODE NAME VERITY. Sensational story of friends during WWII.
Thanks for the thought-provoking post!

Kimberly said...

Thanks for that vote of confidence. I'm working on it. LOL.

Kimberly said...

I love when I get such great recommendations. I'll put that on my last as well. It sounds great! The contemporaries usually involve some sad issue with the friendship or else you find out someone has been a frenemy all along. I hate those. Unless in the course of the story, the true friendships come out strong in the end.

Vanessa Barneveld said...

Jumping in very late here, Kim! I've been computerless for the past few days... You're right--our heroines have gotta have friends. Real ones. Thanks for the recommendations. So looking forward to Darynda's YA especially.

Carlene said...

Loved your post Kim. I'm just getting back from a few days of being sick so my brain is really lacking but I kind of admired the friendship between Bella and Alice in Twilight. And right now I cannot remember specifics, but have you read this book called "I Coriander"? My 11 year old niece read it then had me read it. I liked the feeling of friendship in it and while not truly paranormal, it did have to do with magic. Good reading, friend.

Kimberly said...

I particularly like the friendships in your books. Can't wait to see them on the shelves...:-).
Hope your computer issues resolve soon. Thanks for stopping by.

Kimberly said...

I'll have to look up I CORIANDER. I haven't heard of that one, so I'm very interested. Thanks for the recommendation, Carlene. Hope you're feeling better and ready for our writer's retreat at the beach. :-)

Kerri Carpenter said...

Another fantabulous post, Kim! I really love this subject. I think I'll give you the same example I probably gave last time you had this hissy fit (smile) - Baby-Sitter's Club all the way baby! ;-)