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Like Peas and Carrots: Girls’ Friendships in YA Lit

The month of September celebrates women’s friendships, which lead me to think about friendships within books and some of my favorite books dealing with friendships. There are times when I feel so closely connected to a character that I wish they were real so we could be best friends. When I was in middle school, I adored Just as Long as We’re Together by Judy Blume. I read that book until it fell apart — and then kept reading it. I loved the new friendship between Stephanie and Alison. I really believe in the idea of having more than one BFF.

Teen literature is full of strong female friendships. Sure, there are books about frenemies, or fake friends, or even the BFF who betrays you. The ones that stand out the strongest in my mind are the books about true best friends: best friends who wouldn’t date the boy you might like, best friends who stand behind your decisions even if they don’t agree with them, and best friends you know you can count on even if you just had a massive fight.

Some of these books don’t start out with the main characters as best friends. Instead, something throws the girls together. Going through the situation creates and cements the bond of friendship.

  • In Girls Dinner Club by Jessie Elliot, three girls each have their own issues: two of them have trouble with boys and the other girl has problems with her father dating. One night they eat dinner together, wishing they could cook. They decide to cook meals together, learning in the process. Over meals, they start talking and sharing their troubles, asking for advice and gaining friendship.
  • In Kody Keplinger’s Shut Out, Lissa’s tired of the football/soccer team rivalry. She hates it when their pranks ruin her dates. She decides she’s not hooking up with her boyfriend until the rivalry ends. As the word spread, other girls agree with her decision. Soon the girlfriends of both teams refuse to hook up with their boyfriends. By coming together, they end up forming a bond that goes beyond sports and their boyfriends.
  • In Lonely Hearts Club by Elizabeth Eulberg, Penny feels let down by boys and starts a girl revolution. They host a girls’ night, and the club becomes bigger than anyone ever expected. I love how these girls realize they don’t have to change themselves for a guy and that these newly-founded friendships make you stronger and give you support, encouragement, and advice.

Some of the books place girls together who might never become friends without an outside influence.

  • In Perfect Cover by Jennifer Lynn Barnes, Bailey isn’t the cheerleading type. She has no idea why a coded message about the cheerleading squad found its way into her locker. She almost doesn’t go to tryouts, but the coded message makes her curious. Before long, she learns that the cheerleaders aren’t just cheerleaders: they all have skills just like her, and they’re a secret government agency of spies. Bailey becomes part of this group, even going so far as to undergo a makeover to fit in with stereotype of a cheerleader.
  • In The Cinderella Society, Jess finds an invitation to join the Cindys just when she needs it the most. She’s surprised to discover a great group of girls who give her a makeover. The Cindys fight an evil group, the Wickeds, who bully and humiliate others. Jess finds the sisterhood empowering and it boosts her confidence.
  • Cammie and her friends become close with a new student at Gallagher Academy for Exceptional Young Women in Ally Carter’s I’d Tell You I Love You, but Then I’d Have to Kill You. Macey arrives from England, joining the school much later than the average student. She’s placed in Cammie’s room. At first Cammie and her friends aren’t too sure about Macey. They’re suspicious of her credentials and her arriving at the school so late in their career. On an assignment in town, Cammie speaks with a boy. Intrigued by him, Cammie and her friends plan missions to learn more information about Cammie’s crush, Josh. As they attend an all girls’ spy school, they know how to kill people, how to blend into the scenery, and how to spot something wrong when in a crowd; however, they know practically nothing about boys.

Some of the books highlight an already existing friendship; however, something brings the bonds of friendship closer together such as a romance, heartbreak, or an adventure.

  • One of the most popular books of this type is the Sisterhood of Traveling Pants series by Ann Brashares. Four friends weren’t sure how they were going to survive a summer apart. They ended up with magical pants to tie them together and to share their summer moments.
  • The protagonists in Joanna Philbin’s The Daughters came together because of their famous parents. They’ve stayed best friends through thick and thin. They support each other as each girl matures and finds her direction in life.
  • In Tattoo by Jennifer Lynn Barnes, Bailey and her friends purchase magical tattoos. The tattoos give them each a supernatural power to help with their upcoming fight with evil. Only together will they triumph.

Do you have a character from a book you wish could be your BFF or a group of friends that you wish you be a part of?

— Jennifer Rummel, currently reading Dear Teen Me, edited by E. Kristin Anderson and Miranda Kenneally

2 Comments

  1. mia c mia c

    I love this post! (And the power of female frienship was such an amazing aspect of Code Name Verity, which is my recent most-favorite YA book. )

  2. Amanda Frank Amanda Frank

    This is a great post! My daughter loves YA books that are focused around females or with a strong female presence. She’s reading a book right now that she can’t put down called, “Through Angel’s Eyes” by Steve Theunissen, you can check it out and get it right off the website http://sbpra.com/stevetheunissen/. As much as she likes the Harry Potter and the Twilight series, I’m glad she’s taken an interest in books who’s “heros” don’t have vampiric or wizardly powers. I may have to get one of the books, listed above, for her – I think she’d really like them, the characters seem so human and real, something she can relate to! Thanks for the post!

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