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.