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:
- Things didn’t get better.
- I don’t really understand why it is so common to rally girls against each other.
- 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.
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.
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.
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.
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
- Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo – Fantasy
- Queens of Geek by Jen Wilde – Contemporary
- You’re Welcome, Universe by Whitney Gardner – Contemporary
- Iron Cast by Destiny Soria – Fantasy
- Truthwitch by Susan Denard – Fantasy
- I Am Princess X by Cherie Priest – Mystery
- Outrun the Moon by Stacey Lee – Historical Fiction
- A Quiet Kind of Thunder by Sara Barnard – Contemporary
- Am I Normal Yet by Holly Bourne – Contemporary
- Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein – Historical Fiction
- The Female of the Species by Mindy McGinnis – Contemporary
- Shadowshaper by Daniel José Older – Fantasy
- Under a Painted Sky by Stacey Lee – Historical Fiction
- The Start of me and You by Emery Lord – Contemporary
- Sanctum by Sarah Fine – Paranormal
- The Girl of Fire and Thorns by Rae Carson – Fantasy
- This Adventure Ends by Emma Mills – Contemporary
- The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas – Contemporary
- Beauty Queens by Libba Bray – Contemporary
- This one Summer by Mariko Tamaki – Contemporary Graphic Novel
- Lumberjanes by Noelle Stevenson – Fantasy Graphic Novel
- Exit, Pursued by a Bear by E. K. Johnston – Contemporary
- Gabi, a Girl in Pieces by Isabel Quintero – Contemporary
- Not if I see you First by Eric Lindstrom – Contemporary
- Uprooted by Naomi Novik – Fantasy
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.