Friends In Young Adult Fiction

Friends...

I don’t know what I would do without my friends. They accept me for who I am, make me happy, and help me out when I need it. They are awesome and I can’t imagine life without them. So it surprises me a bit that friends aren’t around very much in the Young Adult genre. I mean, they are around, but the only place where they are really common is in contemporary novels.

I find that saddening since my friends played a huge role in my life, and I think that goes for many other people out there. But in YA fiction, a protagonist’s friends normally don’t play a prominent role in the story, even in contemporary sometimes. They are introduced, walk around with the protagonist for a couple of chapters, and then fade away as the story picks up and/or the love interest gets more page time. I even read some books where the female lead’s best friend was only there to talk about how hot a guy is. Friends have little to no involvement in many protagonists’ lives.

Which I think is very unrealistic. If was trying to solve a mystery, meeting a hot guy, going on an adventure, hunting someone down, or even just trying to reach a goal, my friends would be the first to know, and I would probably ask them to come along and help me. Even if I did try to hide what I was doing from them, they would probably notice something’s up and attempt to butt in on their own.

And even if I ignored how unrealistic the absence of friends are in YA, I would still think that stories would be better if they were around more often. Unspoken by Sarah Rees Brennan, Speechless by Hannah Harrington, and I Hunt Killers by Barry Lyga are some of my favorite books, because of the story and because of the fact that the friends of the protagonist were so fun and had great chemistry with the protagonist.

I understand that having the friends of a person who is involved in something dangerous play an important role in a story and know what’s going on might be inconvenient, but it is well worth it, and can even help open up some new opportunities to make the story better. And if a character doesn’t have friends since they are a loner or just has an inability to do make them, at least make the protagonist create something resembling friendships, as nobody goes through life without meeting people.

I want to read more books where the protagonist has strong bonds with their friends and friends that actually play a role in a story. Because, as we all know, “Friends don’t let friends do stupid thing… Alone.” They will also help you, like, not die.

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37 thoughts on “Friends In Young Adult Fiction

    • Yeah, I really don’t think many teenagers have no friends, or have friends but just don’t spend much time with them… (Heck, I Hunt Killer’s protagonist is the son of a serial killer and even he has a friend and girlfriend…) Friends are kind of what make being a teenager fun 😛 And like you said, even one friend will do.

      • It’s not that. I mean, I think quite a few teens are pretty lonely. Which is really sad to think about.
        But a lot of the MCs in YA novels are really isolated. Parents aren’t very prominent, either.
        Haha, I think I might read that book, it sounds interesting!
        I do love a book with a good best friend in it 🙂

      • Oh, I don’t think I wrote that right. I meant that most of the teens I know have friends… There are definitely some lonely one 🙂 Hah, Disappearing Parent Syndrome would be a fun thing to write a discussion post on!
        I Hunt Killers is a great book. Has a ton of dark humor and all of that other mystery stuff that comes with , well, murder mysteries 😛

      • Ohh, yes. The same goes for me. But I remember when I was in high school there was this one boy who was always alone. I always said hi and everything, and I even asked him to sit with my group of friends a few times, but he always said no. I wondered why, but I guess he liked chilling by himself. But, anyway.
        That would be so fun! I would love to do a discussion post on that 😀
        I have never read many murder mystery books, but this one definitely sounds different!

      • Aw, he must have been really shy… Or just liked being alone, lol. I guess having no friends would be acceptable for a character that acted like the boy you described. But even then, if he was doing the stuff that teens do in YA books, I doubt that he wouldn’t find a person to talk to, at least 😛
        I Hunt Killers is definitely different!

      • I hope he is able to get some friends (if he wants them…) in the future 🙂 I can get really shy sometimes, too.
        You’re right. Those characters can be shocking. Tsk, tsk 😛

  1. I have never thought of this before. But now that you said it (that too so beautifully), I am wondering why I didn’t think of it before.. I sure agree with you… I love this post!

  2. I’m so with you. I’m always drawn to books that have strong friendships and those where friendship is the focus. It was definitely all about my girlfriends when I was a teen. Sure we talked about boys and had boyfriends or whatever, but I was way closer with my best friend than I ever was with whatever boy I was hanging out with. I wish YA focused more on friendships, too. Great post! I’m a new follower via Bloglovin (I’d love to have you follow back).
    -Natalie @Natflix&Books

    • Exactly! I spent more time with my girlfriends than I have with any boy.And most of the stuff I did was with them by my side. I am always wishing that YA had more strong friendships and didn’t focus so much on couples >_<

      Thank you for following! I just followed you back 😀

  3. Yeah, I think I talked about this before: Friends are almost non existent in YA. Especially female friendships. There’s all this cat fighting and jealousy and hatred that gives a negative image to anyone reading the book, you know? I’d like to hear about healthy friendships, and girls standing by each other instead of tearing each other down.

    great post!

    • Oh, I think I just found your post! I’ll read it right after I reply 🙂
      It’s true that female friendships seem to have the most trouble than male friendships. There’s this terrible mentality that girls hate other girls and are constantly trying to beat each other up, which is totally untrue! It’s actually a little scary that us readers get so excited when a group of girls have a healthy friendship.

  4. I think that’s why, looking back, I have an issue with Maggie Stiefvater’s Shiver, Linger and Forever. Because although at the beginning of Shiver Grace (the protagonist) has two best friends, you don’t see much of them as the story continues and as the love story picks up. Which is very unrealistic. If I didn’t go to school for days or inexplicitly drop off the face of the earth, I am POSITIVE my friends wouldn’t just sit by and do nothing. And even more so, when I do come back into their lives later on, I’m sure they wouldn’t automatically be all friendly with me, their friend who has ignored them. You know? A lot of friendships in YA books seem to be more convenient than anything else.

  5. So agreed. Sometimes I think the way YA fiction tries to resolve this is by making the romantic interest a friend too, but I don’t think that really addresses the issue either. I think part of it is the whole-kill-two-birds-with-one-stone. I need to advance the story, so if the friend is included, the friend will have no specific role except as the sidekick who doesn’t get to do much… but that’s not really true, either, as you’ve pointed out. Harry Potter proves otherwise, proves that friends will risk things along with you. And I think that a lot of the lack of strong friendships also comes from the lack of strong familial relationships. Books with strong sisterly bonds? Books where the parentals are not the enemy? It’s strange that that’s a stronger trope than the idea of having friends who do more than push you toward the big baddy. And like you, I loved Unspoken for that very reason.

  6. Right on Lottie, you could not have been more right! And like you mentioned, Speechless is a great novel because friendship actually plays a key role in the storyline, not only the romantic aspect of things! I love my friends, because they help shape me into a better person, and I think every protagonist should have a friend that plays an important role in the story!

    Really great post, Lottie!

    -Grace 🙂

  7. You made a fantastic point in this post. When I do find books about friendship, I find that they end up being my favorites because it is so rare to find one. It’s usually all about the romance, love, and boy. It gets tiring and especially unrealistic. Friends are so important in real life and I think they would just add so much more realism in a story if they had a bigger part than just a few lines of dialogue.

    Alise @ Readers in Wonderland

  8. Great post! I mean, personally, I would probably be one of those weirdos who goes off to save the world on her own without telling any of her friends. BUT, as a teen I wasn’t that way at all. Friends are really important at that age and most people usually have a solid group they can rely on to support them when needed. I mean, even if it doesn’t necessarily mean the friends risk their lives to help them out like in HP, they would still be around to talk to. You know the MCs would usually probably prefer to talk about the drama they’re getting involved in, no matter how crazy!

  9. Love this post, Lottie! You make clever and true observations regarding the role of friends in YA fiction – I know I wouldn’t have survived my high school years if not for my close friends. Perhaps they do need to play a more important part in books. From an author’s standpoint I suppose it can be difficult, because developing a swoon-worthy love interest, family members, friends, etc. all at once can be hard, but judging from the books you’ve recommended, it can be done.

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  11. Fantastic post! I absolutely ❤ it!

    I loved I Hunt Killers!! Jazz&Howie are one of my favorite literary best friends and they are the perfect example of “Friends don’t let friends do stupid thing… Alone.” That reminds me, I should pick up the second book, Game.

    It makes me sad that almost all friendships in ya are superficial and just… meaningless. Sigh. I miss reading about characters like Anne Shirley and Diana Berry (Anne of Green Gables) or Harry and Ron.

    • Thank you! I loved writing it ❤

      I Hunt Killers is so awesome! And Jazz and Howie are such great fictional friends. Saying that they are a perfect example of "Friends don't let friends do stupid things… Alone" hits the nail right on the head. And I also sort of adore how the two boys are complete opposites, Jazz being dark, fascinated by murders, and afraid of what's inside him, Howie being a little bit of a scaredy cat, more carefree, and has major issues with injuries 😛

      It is sad… What happened to those beautiful stories about friendship and supporting each other– oh wait, that's in the MG genre. Really, it's as if authors have stopped thinking that friendships don't matter once a person hits the age for YA books -_- Harry and Ron are so good together! (I need to read the rest of the HP series…)

      • “that’s in the MG genre.” Point!!
        And yes, I think Harry and Ron (&Hermione) are great friends. I’m not as huge a HP fan as others(everyone?), but I did like the books very much. 🙂

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  13. I agree! I think books are so much more interesting when there is a friend that sticks around and gets into trouble with the MC. It adds more tension and realism to the story so it’s much easier to get sucked in, rather than being distracted wondering where that support character went eight chapters ago.

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  15. This is such a good point, I can’t believe I’ve never noticed this before. You’re right, writers need to put out books with strong friendships because it’s much more realistic than a girl ditching her friends for the new mysitcal boy in town. (Even though Hollywood would have us believe otherwise). Great post!

  16. You’re so right! What I find even more annoying is that when a best friend actually does show up in YA, they are always heavily stereotyped! They always have to be super chirpy and usually boy obsessed. It’s like the same cardboard cutout character again and again. *Sigh*

    Fantastic idea for a post!

    • That stereotype annoys me as well. I haven’t encountered those type of characters as often as others, but when I do, I just get real mad 😛 I admit to having a super chirpy, boy-obsessed friend (well, more of a acquaintance), but she also has other good qualities. So seeing the wooden chirpy friends is very annoying. Authors need to keep in mind that best friends come in all sorts of personalities.

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  18. This is one of my pet peeves too! Anna Dressed in Blood by Kendare Blake is another example of a good one, because Cas’ new friends and his ability to trust them and allow him into his crazy life is an integral part of the plot.

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