Thursday, 6 March 2014

YA and the Missing Female Friendships

At the end of 2013, there was an article on the BBC asking “Where Are the Daughters of Buffy?” Not the characters who can fight, but the women who are well-rounded.  Women who have meaningful relationships with other women.  And that's the part of the article I really found myself stuck on.  I love a good bromance, but where are the female equivalents? Buffy and Willow, sure, but as that article points out, it’s been ten years since Buffy went off air.  But Buffy is a TV show.  This is a blog about writing. So, where are the best friends of YA?

My female friendships have always meant a lot to me.  We’ve been through a lot together over the years, and you know where you should be able to read about female relationships? YA. Why? Because many of the friendships I forged with other girls at that age still matter. The boyfriends I had in my teens? Yeaaaah, not so much.  

FEMALE FRIENDSHIP PHOTO MONTAAAAAAAAAAAAAGE!!!!!

One from when we actually were teenagers ;)

Friends who Trek together stay together

Pictured: ADULTS

Pictured: MORE ADULTS (with additional men)

(My male friends are also very important to me. But this is a post about female friendships, sorry dudes!)

Why doesn’t YA have more friendships at their core? Sure, friends come and go.  That's natural. It's sad, but it happens, probably more during the transitions between childhood and adolescence.  It doesn't diminish anything you went through together or how close you were.  Life is all about changes, especially when you're a teenager because those changes happen so fast.  Sometimes your friends are the only thing that do stick around.  Most of mine did, and we had so much fun.  Sure, we had some ups and downs, but those friendships that survived trying circumstances are the strongest I've ever had.  That's the thing about writing well-rounded characters: they're going to have disagreements.  The strength comes from how they move on.  And trust me, it took a lot of strength to deal with some of the stuff my friends and I threw at each other when we were teens.  We're not perfect, and even our best friendships have their trials. 

And the great thing about writing fiction? You can take those friendships and throw anything at them.  Zombie apocalypse, Unexpected Adventures, terrible trauma, exciting opportunities, SPACE TRAVEL (Colony, whassup?), trouble at school, trouble at the part time job, fun on the beach... Anything you can think of, you can throw it at a friendship and see what happens.  That's what I find exciting.

(Picture number four up there shows how my friends and I would deal with any zombie or other creature-based apocalypse scenario.)

I find it sad that something that defined my teens doesn’t crop up in YA books more.  Suffice to say Colony has a few female friendships going on.

Any recommendations for really intriguing relationships between female characters? John Marsden’s Tomorrow, When The War Began series is brilliant.  And Malinda Lo is an excellent author writing books focusing on women.  Who else? Share your favourites!

12 comments:

  1. +1 to the Malinda Lo rec. ADAPTION really surprised me with a sweet mother/daughter relationship, can't remember the last time I saw something like that in YA.

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    1. I loved Ash by Malinda Lo. It also had a good mother/daughter relationship.

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  2. Yes yes yes to all of this! This is DEFINITELY something I think about when writing--like, stories are always full of loner girls or girl with one BFF and that's just not what my life was (or is) like! So I try to cram in as much girl-friendship as I can, no matter what else is going on in the story. As for books…SISTERHOOD OF THE TRAVELING PANTS, always!

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    1. Thanks for the rec! I'm hoping I'll get enough to compile a good list :D

      Exactly! Sure, I had my loner phases, but more often than not I was surrounded by amazing friends. Time for YA to represent.

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  3. YES to all of this! The one YA book that immediately comes to mind for me when it comes to a female friendship focus is CODE NAME VERITY. It is a beautiful book about friendship between two young women. I loved it so much, I gave a copy to one of my best friends.

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    1. I am SO glad you named that book because it's in my TBR pile, hooray! :D

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  4. I've been wondering why no female seems to have any friends. A lot of authors like their lone heroine who don't want to to socialise and any female friends that are forced upon them end up being fake. It's not a very powering message. While I don't see my friends from high school a lot those were some important years for me and when we reunited after six years all we had were good memories and we were still close with each other.

    That's one of the reasons I loved Buffy so much. That little trio would have done anything for each other and they stuck by each other, even when times were tough. Great show for highlighting the importance of friendship.

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    1. Yeah, a lot of books seem to replace a good friendship with a romance. It's a shame, because our friendships really matter as we grow and leave school behind.

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  5. I completely agree with you, and in fact I'd even go far as to say there's a severe lack of any friendship in general when it comes to female characters in YA. Male characters always seem to have a bromance going on, but so often female leads are set up to be somehow better than other girls because 'they like to read' or 'they don't like to wear make up' or 'they like the outdoors'.

    More often than not a female lead is given a male best friend, and most of the time you can guarantee that, at some point, one of them will end up developing feelings for the other. It's so frustrating for me as a female reader because the majority of my closest friendships are friendships with other girls, and I hate that girls are always set up as competition rather than allies. :\

    If you're looking for a book with a strong female friendship I suggest checking out Pirates! by Celia Rees. I read it during my early teens and while both the female characters have love interests, the main relationship is the friendship between the two girls. :) I also suggest checking out Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein - I haven't read it yet myself, but I've heard great things about the relationship between the girls!

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    1. Thank you for summing it up so perfectly. You're *so* right about girls being set up as each other's competition in a lot of books. Sure, okay, that is a valid plot device, but how about adding in a strong friendship to combat it? It's such a pity that we don't have more supportive relationships in YA - yet. Maybe it's up to us to change it ;)

      Thanks for the Celia Rees rec! I haven't read anything by her since Witch Child and I loved that book.

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  6. Awesome post! A few of my favorite series have really strong female friendships, but they're adult, not YA. It's interesting how often other relationships - guys, family - can overshadow those gal pals because you're right, those ladies form some of our closest ties growing up.

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    1. Thank you ^_^

      It is a shame other relationships overshadow friendships. It's up to us to change it.

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