Where are the Positive Female Friendships in YA?

Female Friendships.png

Hello guys !

Here’s the thing, I was a blissfully naive child (I was never that but let’s pretend) who read MG books with friendships taking front center, where girls kick ass together, have sleepovers and watch out for each other. And then I switched to YA, and I want to ask what happened to that? It just disappeared. Since I started reading YA so much and looking at it from a critical eyes, I started noticing this very -unsettling- pattern. Good, sturdy, girl friendships are so very rare in that age group and it’s REALLY weird because I was a teenager not so long ago and I remember my friends being such a big part of my daily life that I couldn’t wrap my head around this “trend” of making friendships either inexistant, superficial or straight up toxic. What’s up with that?

So I started paying closer attention with each and every book, analyzing how those friendships really worked, hoping that things would get better and… I didn’t like what my conclusions were because:

  1. Things didn’t get better.
  2. I don’t really understand why it is so common to rally girls against each other.
  3. I understand now why so many girls think it’s okay to tear each other down.

All of this being said, I did gather a pattern, the things that are common among those books. So in this post, I’ll talk about those, their impact (because, again they aren’t “just books” and they actually influence people especially children and teenagers), then I’ll get into what I want to see and recommendations to finish it off.

I’m obviously not saying all books have horrid friendships in them, but the ones that have them are one too many, and the books that actually do it right should be boosted, so stay until the end for the recommendations.

1

Girl-on-girl hate

We’re in 2017, why is this even still a thing? Boom, done. No further arguments needed.

Okay, I’m kidding, come back. This is seriously so harmful especially when there is no basis for it and even worse when the basis is a guy. I’m aware that this is very heteronormative but it’s for a reason, I’ve never seen a book with a same gender romance or with non-binary folks have this pattern in them. Never. Anyway, back to our main subject. 65% of the time girls hate each other because of a guy that they both like, because that’s obviously more important than being a decent human-being. 25% of the time they hate each other just because (one of them is usually Queen-bee of the high school) and 10% it’s because of some ridiculous drama that could be worked out with a two sentence conversation.

I don’t think I need to explain why this is harmful but let’s do it anyway. How can we center useless hate in books for teens (not that it’s okay to do it in books for other age groups) and expect these girls to not pick up a thing or two – don’t argue with me on this, we may not realize it but our subconscious has its own schedule. How can a girl calling another girl a “bitch” among other names, slut shaming and othering ever be okay? When and who decided this would be a good idea? Because I’d like to have a nice chat about responsibility to readers and setting a good example.

In this category, you can also insert the main snowflake who doesn’t have girl friends because she’s special and not like other girls so she doesn’t get along with them. Spare me that nonsense.

Superficial or unexplored friendships

I have two scenarios here. Let’s start with the superficial friendship, the one where the girls bond over boys and practically never talk about anything else, the friendship is only used to explore things related to the romance which 1/ is ridiculous because we have a lot more to talk about and 2/ this furthers the stereotype of shallow girls that have nothing else to do but obsess over guys. Why would you do that? This is such an unrealistic portrayal and it also erases a lot of girl who are either, not interest in guys, or, OR, not interested in anyone really. This is how you perpetuate the false-normalcy of what “teenage girls should be like” at that age. And it’s a low blow.

Now with the unexplored friendship, this one is theoritically a good one. With emphasize on the theory part because we never get to see it. The MC supposedly has this best friend who loves her, supports her and everything but is she ever on page? No, or maybe rarely, even if they go to the same damn school. Which is unbelievable because how can you be friends with someone and they don’t show up for THE ENTIRE BOOK. That friendship is usually there as a page filler, nothing comes of it, it’s like the story is a few seconds late, like “the friend was here”. And I don’t like that. I want deep conversations and sleepovers and girl-days.

Toxic friendships

You know the kind right? Manipulative, makes the MC doubt everything including herself, makes fun of the MC and then says “she can’t take a joke” when she is hurt and so on and so forth. I can go all day. And what’s worse is that it’s never called out as bad or hurtful, the book just goes with the flow as this horrendous person sets the example of a horrendous friendship that should burn in hell, but it somehow tries to makes you think that it’s okay? yeah, no. Again, be careful with the subconscious, we absorb way more than we think we do.

Okay I’m done with the rant, now onto the positive stuff that, even though exists, we need a lot more of.

2

There’s only one way it should be, really. The only acceptable way to portray female friendships in books is by it being a healthy, reciprocated love. Girls who lift each other up, see the best in each other, accept each other, flaws and all. Girls who have hours long conversations that can be deep, nonsensical (because we all have those moments) or just light hearted and fluffy. It can even be about boys, it just needs to be *among* other things. Girls who talk about science or art, even both, who go out on spontaneous adventures or just to the grocery store, who can cry on each other’s shoulders and laugh until their stomachs hurt, who can sit in comfortable silence too and can give each other space when needed. Oh, and girls who can call each other out on their questionnable behaviors, that’s important too.

I’m turning soft here but those are the things that actually happen and that need to be portrayed so that girls know what to expect out of a friendship, that they deserve to be treated well, that they can’t settle for less just because they’re scared of being alone if they leave a bad friendship.

Or. I wouldn’t mind it turning into a romance huhu. Being that bestfriends to lovers is my favorite trope and I yet have to see an F/F romance like that.

3

As I predicted, I haven’t read nearly enough books for this so I asked some friends for help on twitter and SO MANY came through, so thank you ❤

Title = Goodreads page


That’s it until next time.

What do you think of the lack of Positive Female Friendships in YA?

Do you have any other book recommendations?

Hope you enjoyed, write to you soon.

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52 thoughts on “Where are the Positive Female Friendships in YA?

  1. Thank you for this. Girl-hate is one of my biggest pet peeves, and I don’t understand why it’s a thing either? At this point I can close a book whenever I find slut-shaming or girl-hate in it. Can’t stand it, ugh.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I’m so glad you brought up this topic. It’s something that’s been on my mind for a while actually!

    As far as Girl-on-Girl hate: this is something I honestly didn’t even notice until (and this is embarrassing) an agent pointed it out when I queried the first book I ever wrote. Ever since then, I’ve noticed girl hate everywhere. I think it has deep roots in the misogyny that already exists in society: basically, girls learn to hate each other because we hate ourselves; the patriarchy wants to keep us too distracted to band together. Even though I fell into this writing trap at one point (and it’s still something I have to watch for – it’s so easy to create conflict that way unfortunately!), it’s something that really bothers me now in my reading.

    And as far as toxic friendships, I think this one is dangerous because it doesn’t show the complexity of female friendships. I’m 27 and just realizing that 10 years ago I had a friend who was emotionally manipulative and invalidated my emotions on a regular basis. That friendship and others like it have absolutely affected my mental/emotional state even 10 years later. It’s important. BUT I loved my toxic friend. She was an important person in my life. People can say awful things to you, and even do awful things, but still be a decent person. Life isn’t black and white, and neither are friendships – and that’s something I want to read (and write) in YA fiction.

    Thank you so much for not only talking about these issues but for all the recommendations. I’ve read a few of those books but I’m definitely adding the rest to my TBR.

    Like

    • I started paying attention to it around a year ago and I don’t have any tolerance for it anymore. You are absolutely right, it’s a lot of internalized misogyny that we have to deconstruct.
      Of course, I can’t only bring up tje negatives when there are great books oit there to recommend 😊

      Like

  3. I’ve talked about this with other bloggers a couple of times. It’s way easier to find male friendships than female ones and there’s just no logical reason as to why. I have loads of girl friends and some relationships were toxic and I distanced myself from them and others are healthy and strong and lasting. I’ve said it before, but We Are Okay by Nina LaCour is such a strong book about friendship among girls too. The lines get blurred at some point, but it’s understanding and supportive and beautiful in my opinion.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Great post Fadwa!
    Sometimes I get annoyed at tropes like love-triangles, insta-love and scenarios where guys and girls are paired up perfectly. There’s not enough of YA/Fantasy characters just ending up best friends.
    I’ve started Six of Crows. Let’s see what all the hype is about! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Yes! I love this post! I’m so glad I’m not the only one who hates all this girl-hating in books. I’m writing a YA book right now, and hopefully HOPEFULLY my MC’s friendship comes through as I intend to, a role model for young girls. Fingers crossed I get it right 😀

    Liked by 2 people

  6. I love this post, I think it’s so important to call this kind of nonsense out. I’ve just been for a weekend away with friends I made at school (we’re in our 30s now) and we talked about food, exercise, kids, family, houses, gardening, films, books, pets, holidays, politics…we had a quick chat about our friends new relationship then we moved on. Men featured very little. These are the same topics we’ve always talked about (except maybe kids). There was no drama, no falling out, plenty of laughs. Where are the stories about big groups of girls with lasting friendships?

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Hooray! I love this post so so much. This is something I’ve been noticing a lot recently as well, and I’m actually surprised when there is a good F/F friendship now. As someone who identifies as a female, I can relate to your frustration so much. I love my girlfriends, I couldn’t live without them. And surprise surprise, we don’t JUST talk about boys (a little bit, but ya know). Reading this post, I immediately thought of The Hate U Give and glad I saw it on your recommendations! Starr’s relationships with both Maya and Kenya are amazing, and I love how she ending up dealing with Hailey. Great post, and have an awesome day! 😊

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Such a great post! It’s also something that is present in all aspects of media – men can get along and women can’t. And for teenagers and younger children it’s important to find positive role models in books too.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. I love this post! You’re so right. We need more positive f/f friendship because it’s become this rare thing that’s applauded when it’s supposed normal. I mean, I love my friends and couldn’t imagine not having them around so I’m always sad when female characters in YA don’t have that kind of bond.
    And reading your post, I thought about A Quiet Kind of Thunder which I’ve read recently (and loved) so I’m happy you had that one in your recommendations.
    -Lauren

    Liked by 1 person

  10. I think these tropes came up to ‘fix’ the fact that for a long time there were little to no female characters in entertainment to begin with (or if they were there it was just for the male MC to have a half-baked romance. *cringes*). But with time we’re learning that not only do we need female representation, but we need ACCURATE female representation (which is kind of sad that it’s taken us this long but hey, we’re learning). I think that the only trope I’m okay with seeing here is the toxic friendship one, but ONLY of it is used to be a true lesson, for the MC to realize the toxicity and get away from it, so that the reader can learn how to do the same. I think one good example of a bad girl trope gone right is Sarah J Maas’s Throne of Glass series. The series isn’t perfect, granted, but there’s a beautiful female friendship that emerges, and it started as a girl-hate-for-really-no-reason relationship. But there came a point when both characters realized how dumb they were acting, and now they have an amazing positive friendship where each of them build up and support each other. I’m also currently reach the Darkest Minds for the first time, and one thing I love about it is the relationships between all the characters, but especially between the two girls. The MC recognizes the importance of girls sticking together and just being…well, girls. Talking about things like clothes, but more importantly reassuring each other’s worth as a female and as a human being.

    Liked by 1 person

    • That’s an interesting way to look at it but I think you’re right, they saw it as the easiest and “most natural” (bullshit) way to write girls but that doesn’t even make sense. And I agree, as long as the toxic friendship is challenged and fixed one way or another then I’m okay with it, YOU’RE WELCOME, UNIVERSE actually have one of those which is sooo well handled.

      Liked by 1 person

  11. This is so important 💕
    I despise girl hate, it’s not healthy and it definitely doesn’t set a healthy precedent for young girls reading YA! I love healthy female relationships and I really loved the friendships in Queens of Geek, I’m also really looking forward to some of the recommendations you’ve mentioned especially Six of Crows and A Quite Kind of Thunder 😊

    Liked by 1 person

    • EXACTLY !! Friendships should be written well so that they can be a good example for young girls to follow.
      The friendship between Taylor and Charlie is so amazing, I love that book so so much. Oh and Six of Crows is my absolute favorite fantasy series so I hope you love it 😊

      Liked by 1 person

  12. This is such a great post my twinnie. I agree that there should be more positive female relationships in books, we NEED that so, so much. Thanks for the loaaads of recommendations ahah, I won’t know where to start 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Another fantastic discussion post, Fadwa! Seriously, my most hated trope (even over love triangles) is girl hate. I can’t stand it! Whenever I see girl hate in a book I automatically take off in my rating because it’s terrible to keep perpetuating that stereotype. I mean the more young girls see it the more it’s going to happen and if we just portray positive female friendships then we can stop that stereotype. I remember in middle school almost all of the YA I read had the mean girl or just flat out girl hate in a friendship, it was the worst when all I wanted to see was positive friendships. Also, I love that you recommended Six of Crows! Inej and Nina’s friendship is my favorite! 😁♥

    Liked by 1 person

  14. I read a book once that was about a lesbian relationship and had girl hate, but I can see how it’s usually more common in non-LGBT+ books.
    I think girl hate can work in books if it’s there to be seen as negative. In Asking for It by Louise O’Neill, for example, the friendships are quite toxic, but it’s obvious that it’s a negative portrayal, just like the rape culture in the book. So I think it depends how it’s written and what point the author is trying to make.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Haha yeah there are definitely exceptions but I’ve never came across any and they’re not as common.
      Yeah, when it’s challenged and fought etc… I’m okay with but when a friendship that’s actually bad is masked as good, I can’t stand it.

      Liked by 1 person

  15. Such a brilliant post, Fadwa. Whenever I see people asking for recs with positive female friendships I always have to pause for an unnecessary amount of time. I hate that so many YA books feed into internalised misogyny instead of building up women and female friendships. When I was a teenager I had such a toxic outlook on a lot of other girls because society taught me that I needed to compete with them and prove that “I wasn’t like other girls”. It’s such a toxic mindset to have and I’m so glad I’ve since learned from then.

    Queens of Geek was such a refreshing change. It was so good to see that despite Charli and Taylor having so much going on in their lives they were still willing to be there for the other person. I adore Inej and Nina’s friendship too because I feel like female friendships are even more lacking in Fantasy.

    Liked by 1 person

  16. Hi there! I just came across this post of yours and your blog in general and I couldn’t help but comment and tell you how much I adore your blog and love this post! Keep up the great work, I am going to follow you so I can keep up with all your new posts!

    Like

  17. Love this post boo boo! We definitely need more female friendship in YA, I think it’s something girls always complain about. I don’t really understand how it’s such a big issue because most YA authors are women, so there should be great female friendships around!

    Liked by 1 person

  18. Another fantastic post Fadwa!

    Positive female friendships are so so so important in YA. Actually, it really is important at any age range: children’s books, middle grade, YA, and even adult. Unfortunately it is so rare these days. I’m sad to say that I was actually shocked at the amount of books recs you were able to come up with.

    I was actually going to suggest The Female of the Species! Now there is some girl hate going on in the book, but the author uses it to show how ridiculous it is. The author also tackles rape culture and slut shaming as well. I know you said you had some reservations about it, but I still hope you are able to read it one day.

    Liked by 1 person

  19. YES. So much yes. I’m okay with a non-friendship thing sometimes. There have been books where the mean girl served an ACTUAL purpose, not just to be…the mean girl. Or I’ve read books where the mean girl turned into a really good friend because the author actually delved into her backstory and made her a real character in the story. Also if the book is based on bullying – like that’s the whole point of it – bcs I was bullied in MG and HS. I’m okay with those scenarios. But I hate books that just have a chick being a bitch to the MC for no other reason than to I guess make you feel bad for MC because she’s so special ? I don’t know. I hate it. I’ll definitely be checking out all of these recs! I need some girl friendships in my lifeeeeee

    Molly @ Molly’s Book Nook

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yep exactly! I’m sorry about the bullying :/ kids and teenagers can be cruel ! I definitely get what you mean, when it’s unnecessary it’s a big no !
      Saaaame!! I have most of thel on my TBR already, I just need to get to them haha.

      Like

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  23. I completely agree that there need to be more positive friendships in books, female or male. However, I’ve always been confused by comments about “Why is girl hate such a thing” in books. It’s such a big thing in books because it is such a big thing in real life. Not in every case, but I’m sure there are tons of girls out there who have experienced it.

    We talk about needing people to feel represented by the books they read, and I think that should extend past diversity and incorporate our experiences also. People who have experienced girl hate should be represented as well as people who have great friendships. The other argument is usually that it gives young readers the wrong impressions of how to interact with others, but again, many young readers are experiencing this themselves and might actually feel better if they realize they are not alone.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I know but it’s very proeminent, I’m not saying it needs to be exterminated because those are very real things girls experience, I’m saying we need more positive relationship to balance the bad. We are seeing more and more good friendship now but it wasn’t the case a few years back, they were pretty rare.

      Liked by 1 person

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