Thursday, December 30, 2010

YA: Friends

What's more important to teens than their friends?  All their drama stems from the friends (slash family).  Being a teen is an interesting of life, and one full of pressures.  Peer pressure is the common term used.  It's not all bad peer pressure either.  In some groups, you are encouraged to be a good person, rather than a bad ass.  Then again, in other groups, you're encouraged to be a bad ass.  Greasers vs Squares.

As you're reading a YA novel, you'll notice that the main protagonist isn't the only one with a voice and problems.  Usually, there is a whole host of best friends, or friends becoming best friends, or best friends transitioning to new friends.  But rarely is the main character alone.  And, since the main character can't do everything, the best friends get to do the other stuff, and we can explore another way of life through them.  Rampant by Diana Peterfruend has a whole host of girls with different personalities, and through each of them, we get to see how being a unicorn hunter has affected them.  Twenty Boy Summer by Sarah Ockler shows how a whole family mourns the loss of a brother and son (and the effect it has on the main character's best friend).

Best friends can also provide one more crucial role (among many, including a sympathetic--or sometimes an unsympathetic--ear): comedic relief.  I'm sure we're all familiar with Harry Potter.  Take Ron, the best friend.  He is awkward, quirky, compassionate, and completely a boy.  He provides insights into the magical world Harry has never seen.  I could go into all the complexities of their relationship and how real it is, but just read the books and you'll realize what a fantastic character he is.  Without his brothers, Fred and George, in the scene, Ron provides the comedic relief everyone needs now and then.  As the books progressively gets more serious, Ron's blunders get more hilarious.  Simply with a word, look, act, he can relieve the building tension, give us a breather.  And, what I love about him, is he is actually a very complex, deep character, though on the surface he may be awkward and weird all the time.  Luna, Crookshanks, Hagrid, all the Weasleys, and Neville (among others) act in this capacity as well.

So, as you're writing your YA, don't forget the friends.  They provide subplots that give another layer to your story (like an onion) and deepen it, add another complexity.  Even Bella (though she forsook her friends) had the friend characters in Edward's family.

Based on best friends only, what are your favorite YA novels?

Happy writing!


Heather said...

This is an excellent reminder of the importance of friends in novels! My favorite YA novel with that in mind would have to be The Vampire Academy novels. Mead accentuated the importance of friends throughout the series in a way I haven't seen many other authors do.

Anonymous said...

Not just one friend, but several in The Truth About Forever by Sarah Dessen - they're quirky and sweet and hilarious.

Unknown said...

Funny you mention Bella's friends. My husband has watched all three Twilight movies with me, and his favorite character is Bella's friend Jessica. She had him at "I know, right!"

Saewod Tice said...

To answer: The House of Night series - Stevie Ray. Lord do I love her and her hillbilly twang. Then you throw in Aphrodite and her snarky attitude. Love the mix and complexity Stevie Ray's role took on.

@Bethany - the "I know, right!" and "Like together, together," are lines constantly repeated between my co-workers and me.

mshatch said...

Jon Skovron's Struts and Frets is a great YA book with a male mc, Sammy. His best friends are Rick and Jen5. I wished they all could've been my friends when I was in high school.

Unknown said...

Barring Harry Potter? (Seriously, when I was twelve, I was pretty sure Ron and Hermione were also MY friends. Still kind of definitely think so.)

So, aside from Harry Potter, it'd probably LIRAEL; the Disreputable Dog is the most awesome BFF ever. She encourages Lirael to get up to all sorts of high jinks, but is just as quick to rush to Lirael's rescue and offer a shoulder to cry on. Bonus? She's a talking dog. That's just cool.

Anonymous said...

The friendship in The Book Thief is beautifully written - which ultimately makes it more heartbreaking when the end comes.

The friendship between Katniss and Gale is another stand-out.

Mary Gray said...

I thought the friendship between Violet and Jay in THE BODY FINDER felt so real and sweet that when they took things up a notch to the romance, I could only squeal. :)

Anonymous said...

I know that it's not really YA, but I can't believe no one's mentioned 'The Hobbit'! With friends like that, it's no surprise they took on a dragon and won.