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YA Literary Tropes: The Goofball Best Friend

Welcome back readers!  We have come a long way in our on-going discussion of literary tropes found in young adult fiction.  So far, we have explored The Old Clunker I Drive, The I Already Know you Introduction, The I Have to Take Care of my Parent(s), The Manic Pixie Dream Girl (and Boy), the A-Hole Friends, the Awesome Outfit, and The Repressed Protagonist.  Now let us get to know someone whom I consider to be pretty great: the goofball best friend.  You know the one. They play a crucial role in some of our favorite tales; sometimes it is to be the “explainer”, or the comic relief, often it is an alibi to unsuspecting parents, or a frantic midnight ride. But the goofball best friend is useful, sometimes carrot-topped, and always love-able.

  • Harry Potter Series (Best Books For Young Adults: 1999,2000, 2004, 2006, 20082009 Popular Paperbacks for Young Adults, Teens Top Ten: 2004, 2006, & 2008) by J.K. Rowling: Ron is the quintessential goofball best friend; he is this literary trope.   Ron is the comic relief from Harry’s angst.  Understandable angst, I mean we all know Harry has had it rough.  But Ron also plays the role of explaining magical culture to Harry (and us readers.) Hermione does this as well but as a “muggle” she tends to know more textbook-based facts.  Ron is a great best friend to have, and an absolute goofball.

  • Papertowns (2009 Best Book For Young Adults) by John Green:  Ben is the go-to guy for Quintin (aka “Q”.) Ben lends Q his famous car, is always ready to help him search for clues about Margo, and keeps it all interesting by being a funny goofy guy.  In fact, Ben has the best line (IMHO) in this entire book full of great moments.  (Paraphrasing here) Ben declares during a road trip that he has to pee so badly it hurts, and it hurts so badly that he is going to cry, and when he cries his tears are going to be made of pee.    Ben: I think we’ve all been there.

 

  • Jasper Dent Series by Barry Lyga: Howie.  Take one character who was raised by a serial killer, add a string of deadly murders in a small town, then pile on some deadly family secrets, and… well, things get pretty heavy for Jasper.  Luckily his BFF Howie is there to lighten the mood.  Howie is tall and skinny, a would-be lady killer, and a sufferer of hemophilia.  Howie is supportive of Jasper and makes him (and us) laugh even when we weren’t expecting to.  Howie even manages to make brooding Jasper look funnier.  As payback for favors owed, Howie has Jasper get ridiculous tattoos “for” him as he cannot (see above re: hemophilia).

 

  • The Mortal Instruments Series (Teens Top Ten: 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011 Readers’ Choice Nomination) by Cassandra Clare: Simon.  Clary and Simon are fully immersed in the “mundane” world (gee, thanks for the terminology– I feel so boring now) when they meet Jace and company.  The magical world is full of things both confusing and scary for Clary.  Luckily, Clary’s best friend Simon is a nice, normal, and funny guy who grounds her (and us) and lightens the mood considerably.  Simon maintains this role as the goofball best friend even after he becomes (VAGUE SPOILER ALERT) less mundane.

 

  • The Daughter of Smoke and Bone Trilogy (2011 Readers’ Choice Nomination) by Laini Taylor: Zuzana.  Karou, like our aforementioned protagonists, has a lot to deal with.  Karou had been living a life very close to normal (except for her strange and beloved adoptive family of monsters.)  But when reality irrevocably changes, Karou comes very close to leaving the world of boring normal people for good.  Ah, but for Zuzana she may have.  Zuzana (and her boyfriend Mik) are the humans keeping this high fantasy grounded.  Zuzana makes us laugh, asks the questions we are dying to ask, and proves herself to be not only a goofball but a very brave woman willing to risk her own life for the greater good.

Readers, there are goofball best friends aplenty in YA lit.  In fact, I would like to mention two more GBBFFs (I just invented that) that I didn’t have time to fully explore.  Earl from Me and Earl and the Dying Girl by Jesse Andrews and Iko from The Lunar Chronicles by Marissa Meyer; both goofy and awesome.   Any more out there?

I hope you will check in next Wednesday for the final literary tropes post: The Buried Memories.

— Tara Kehoe, currently Reading: How I live Now by Meg Rosoff

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Tara Kehoe

Tara is a readers' advisory librarian at the Talking Book and Braille Center in New Jersey.

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