Although the prompt for this week is romance, I wanted to focus on other relationships instead. Relationships often drive the story of young adult novels, whether it’s a contemporary romance or a subplot in a fantasy. There’s nearly always a relationship. Romantic relationships fill readers’ hearts with joy, anger, and hope as they read about their journeys and wonder if they’ll ultimately end up together. But love comes in many forms. To say that friendships are any less important than romantic relationships means that you’re missing out on a lot of vibrant relationships and books.
So for today’s Top Ten Tuesday, I wanted to focus on different types of relationships in young adult novels. So without further ado, the relationship post!
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Best Female Friends
In young adult, there’s a ton of times that women are often super catty toward each other. It’s a common trope, especially in contemporaries set in high schools. Everyone isn’t going to be friends, but I really don’t like when women shame other women. A little bit is realistic, because to pretend it doesn’t happen is naïve, but when it becomes the focus of the novel it’s a little uncomfortable for me. To use the quote from Mean Girls: “You all have got to stop calling each other sluts and whores. It just makes it okay for guys to call you sluts and whores.” That quote has really stuck with me. So here’s some novels I’ve loved where friendships between women are displayed.
There’s a little bit of the aforementioned woman on woman hate in this book, but I like how the friendships evolve. This is also a historical fiction fantasy novel, which is one of my favorite combinations.
While I didn’t love this book entirely, I did love the friendship between Hermione and Polly. In Exit, Hermione is date raped. Exit deals with the aftermath of that and Polly is constantly there for Hermione even when she has her own struggles. I loved reading their friendship.
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Best Friend Groups
Sometimes it’s impossible to chose between only one best friend. I love books where friends explore and discover together. Sometimes you love them in ways that are created when you are crushed into the same space, experiencing the same things and bonding over them. Other times you just stumble upon them and a light of connection flares up inside of your chest. I really enjoy the dynamic of a group of friends. Where there used to be one character, suddenly there’s more. These are my favorites.
I feel like this is the only one that doesn’t really need any explanation. Always the first in my heart.
The first novel in The Raven Cycle, The Raven Boys introduces Blue, Gansey, Ronan, Adam, and Noah. Though sometimes their friendship causes them to go down dangerous paths, the love they feel for each other is so genuine. This is one of my favorite series. Highly recommend them if you’ve never read it.
But what she didn’t realize about Blue and her boys was that they were all in love with one another. She was no less obsessed with them than they were with her, or one another, analyzing every conversation and gesture, drawing out every joke into a longer and longer running gag, spending each moment either with one another or thinking about when next they would be with one another. Blue was perfectly aware that it was possible to have a friendship that wasn’t all-encompassing, that wasn’t blinding, deafening, maddening, quickening. It was just that now that she’d had this kind, she didn’t want the other.
This was a hard toss-up between The Serpent King and Goodbye Days because I love them both so fiercely, but I decided to go with the most recently published one. Both of these books have amazing groups of friends. I loved reading about them. Just remember to have a box of tissues on hand if you decide to read a Zentner book.
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Strangers and Enemies Turning into Friends and Allies
I feel like this one is used a lot in young adult fantasy and dystopian novels. Strangers are thrown together and have to learn how to work together in order to survive. I like when this is used because it means that characters don’t trust each other completely. It adds a layer of tension to the story that sometimes is broken and sometimes remains throughout the whole series. A type of character that goes hand-in-hand with this is the antihero/ine, who provides some ambiguousness that the story sometimes needs.
There’s so many relationships in this one that shift and change. Trust is created and broken and created again. I love how the relationships and characters all come together in the final book of the series.
Overall, this series does have good relationships, with a lot of characters changing alliances depending on their current situations. There are other things that I don’t like about this series, but I do like the friendships.
Best Relationship with Yourself: Coming of Age Stories
I love the term coming of age because it encompasses so many things besides literal age. I wanted to do a section on this one because I think it’s important to know who you are since your longest relationship won’t be with friends or a lover, but with yourself. You’re the only one who can figure out who you are. Sometimes there’s outside sources that shape you, but ultimately you’re in charge.
I was completely taken in by this cover but even more taken by the lovely story inside. There is romance, but Kiko knows that she has to focus on finding herself and healing herself before she can even think about long term relationships. Kiko has anxiety and I loved how the book took that and carefully unpacked it. Kiko was given a chance to grow and be brave, and I love how this book focused on Kiko first.
This was one of the first books I read that addressed anxiety at a time when I really needed it. Jade has panic disorder and she’s slowly trying to go out of her comfort zones without having panic attacks. Deb Caletti writes young adult contemporary romance, but most of the time the books also focus on family and friends. Particularly in The Nature of Jade, Jade has a relationship but realizes that it can’t define her at a point when she should be figuring out if and where she’s going to college.
It’s kind of my book goal to slip this one into as many book conversations as I can because I love this series. Part coming of age and part breaking out of the established patriarchy, Lada is in my top favorite female characters list. Plus, her relationship with her brother Radu is so well-done. I also love Radu. Basically all of the main characters in this are so well-established. If you like historical fiction, read this!
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And here ends my post about relationships in young adult novels! I think it would have been easier if I just wrote about my favorite pairings, but I had more fun doing this one! As always:
Top Ten Tuesday was originally started by The Broke and the Bookish, which is sadly finished. But it’s moved over to The Artsy Reader Girl! I’m glad it’s still continuing. If you want to follow along, here’s the list of planned topics!
February 13th was “Love Freebie.” If you’d like to check out the other posts people have written, you can find it here!