If you weren’t already aware, it’s Valentine’s Day tomorrow. Now, I’m not going to jump on the ‘cool, I’m anti-everything’ bus and say I’m opposed to Valentine’s Day. If the day ever comes where someone walks into my life and my head actually allows something to happen there romantically, I’m positive I will buy into the commercial holiday as much as I do every holiday. I agree that there shouldn’t be just one day set aside for you to show your devotion to your partner, but, let’s be real, life is busy and sometimes it’s kinda sweet to give your bae (ew) some special treatment. That said, I’m devoting this year’s Valentine’s Day to platonic relationships, more specifically some of my favourite pals in YA. So, let’s begin.
‘Solitaire’ by Alice Oseman – Tori & Michael
I haven’t found the right words to say how I felt about this book. I liked it a lot, and the representation of mental health and different friend relationships were so interesting and not commonly portrayed in such a way in books. But it also made me look into myself a lot and I think that’s perhaps the reason I’ve found it so tough to review and talk about. I’m still processing it to a degree. What I will and can say, though, is that the friendship, no matter how much Tori might have resisted it, between herself and Michael was so heartwarming. The way Michael persisted with it, because he knew from the get-go that Tori needed someone even if she didn’t know it yet, even if she wasn’t ready to ask for help. Michael was attuned to her and he was strong enough to take all her rejection and still be there in the moments where she really needed him. And I don’t know if, by the end, there was any sort of inklings towards more romantic feelings. I am aware there have been novellas since ‘Solitaire’ was published, so perhaps I’ll find my answers there. But, either way, whatever the outcome, I’m sure it’ll be done effortlessly well. For now, Michael is the certified best best friend.
‘What’s A Girl Gotta Do?’ by Holly Bourne
To be honest, the friendship of Lottie, Amber and Evie explored across ‘The Spinster Club‘ series as a whole is fabulous. They’re feminist AF, they don’t just discuss boys, because — here’s some mind blowing stuff — girls do actually have better things to talk about than exclusively boys. They’re far from perfect, but they work at their friendship and support each other through thick and thin. That’s why I chose ‘What’s A Girl Gotta Do?’ specifically for this one. Because Lottie, arguably the most confident and daring of the the trio, comes under fire and, when she quakes under the pressure of calling out every act of sexism, needs the moral support of her friends. And even though she’s irritable and sometimes distant, Amber and Evie are there to lift her back up and see her through with her mission to take no sexist shit!
‘Beautiful Broken Things’ by Sara Barnard
The complexities of female friendship depicted in ‘Beautiful Broken Things‘ is some of the most realistic portrayals I have ever seen. Caddy, Rosie and Suzanne are far from perfect, but what teenager (hell, what human) is? They’re filled with jealousy, naivety and it goes without saying that there is a certain level of toxicity to their friendship. They’re not always good for each other and that, for me, felt so reminiscent of how friendship can be in real life. You often hear of people breaking up their romantic relationships. It’s not always easy and it’s most certainly not always clean cut, but it’s almost a right of passage to experience a break up and the heartache that goes with it at least once in your life. But the falling apart of friendships? Not so much. There are bust ups ultimately ending in fallouts, but no one tells you you and your once-best-friend don’t have to feel obligated to maintain something that doesn’t work anymore, that’s impacting you negatively, that has grown toxic. And I think ‘BBT’ really began to highlight some of that.
‘Six Of Crows’ by Leigh Bardugo
If there’s one thing I love in a book — that I can rarely emulate in my own writing — it’s having a real ensemble of vivid, wonderful characters. ‘Six Of Crows’ ticks that off with Kaz and his band of misfits. I’ve yet to read ‘Crooked Kingdom’, so I’m living in the illusion that all my babies are fine and well and no one is hurting too much. Because I loved them all dearly. Perhaps most of all, though, I loved the relationship between Nina and Ines. I loved that they knew and understood each other on a level where they didn’t need to physically speak out loud; that they were constantly proud and stunned by one another’s capabilities and that you could completely read, between the lines, that feeling that they would risk their life for the other. It felt a lot to me like those bonds you have with friends that seem to transcend blood; those friends that are almost more like a sister. And, you know, girls supporting girls will forever be my new favourite book trope.
‘Wing Jones’ by Katherine Webber
Speaking of girls supporting girls, can we give a shoutout to the friendship of Wing and Eliza in ‘Wing Jones’. Because reading about Eliza and the way she discovered Wing’s talent for running and didn’t instantly jump on the defence for her position as the best runner in their school’s track team, or let jealousy rot her from the inside out, was seriously kickass girl power. Everyone suffers from bouts of the green monster, but being a girl doesn’t have to mean you’re one or the other: jealous or supportive, cruel or kind. Sometimes you can be a tad envious that your friend has this amazing skill, but the pride you feel in them can completely override that. And sometimes the thought that you wish it was you and not them barely even crosses your mind. Because look how happy your friend is and what reason would you have to not be completely and utterly consumed in how good they’re feeling? I saw that a lot in Eliza and how she acted with Wing. It completely warmed me through that Wing could finally find a friend like that, especially after all she’d been through.
So those are some of my favourite friendships in YA. Let’s be real, they’re some of the most important relationships in life. What are your fave book pals?