In my opinion YA novels in general lack good friendships. Even harder to find is healthy female friendships, something I have discussed already about on this blog. This time, however, I wanted to highlight some fantasy books that have great examples of friendship, including female friendships!
The obvious one to start with are the Harry Potter books which showcase the formation of new friendships and how they develop and change over time. They show realistic instances of strife and strain in the friendship including friends picking sides, which is something that I have personally experienced and think that many people have at some point in their lives. The friendship in these books are also never unhealthy which is refreshing in YA books.
Another excellent series that showcases friendship is the Circle of Magic series by Tamora Pierce. A group of four diverse children, most of them orphans, form long lasting friendships that could really be described more as a ‘picked family’ or ‘build family’ dynamic. The characters are diverse in many ways that include life story, so called ‘rank’ in society (think money, classism), ethnicity, body type and shape and many other ways. Also there are FEMALE FRIENDSHIPS! That are HEALTHY, meaning they are not bitchy and jealous behind each other’s backs and trying to sabotage each other every other chapter. One of the interesting things to consider is how each of the four characters interact with the other, some friendship is built on mutual respect and others about sassing each other. Every pairing of the four characters is a strong example of friendship and none of the pairings is a weaker or lesser friendship.
All of Tamora Pierce’s novels have great examples of friendships (and all of them have female friendships!!) but another series of hers I want to highlight is the Protector of the Small series. This one, on top of showcasing the development of friendship, deals with bullying and overcoming harsh odds to accomplish your goals. Additionally, it deals with sexism and being misjudged based on your perceived abilities based on your gender and also the complications that arise from how being better at or in a position of power in a field that is dominated by the opposite gender. Also Griffins.
In adult literature the Inda series by Sherwood Smith has many great examples of friendships and comradery. This series I think is unique in that it showcases a young boy leaving home for the first time and forming his own friendships away from his family and without their influence for the first time. Then during the course of the first book something happens that removes all of these friends from him and he needs to start over. Yet, over the course of the series you see that even in the short time that he knew his – for lack of a better word – original friends, they still think of him and there are long lasting ramifications as a result. This is a complex and beautiful series.
Switching back to YA/middle grade literature, the Young Wizards series by Diane Duane is another great series that has a brilliant male/female friendship duo. They find each other and bond over being wizards and the hazards that come with the profession but also because they were both bullied. While I have yet to get caught up with all the books in this series, so far they have followed these two characters for years without the same old, tired trope of them finally falling in love and dating, etc, that normally develops in YA literature with dual male/female leads. This could chance once I catch up but for now it’s refreshing since males can be friends with females without being in love.
Also in YA there is the Mediator series by Meg Cabot. These books are more suited to the ‘urban fantasy’ title then straight up fantasy, however, they deal with having to navigate life after moving across the country to a new school and having a new family, including too many brothers. There is definitely more going on in the book then just this, but the main character also tried to make new friends, tries to make friends or maybe just peace with her new brothers and tries to keep in contact with her old friends.
A similar situation occurs with the Green Rider series by Kristen Britain (which is located in the adult section of stores/libraries but there really isn’t much of a reason for this as it is suitable for young adults). The main character of this series runs away from school and the friends she had there and into a new adventure where she makes new friends. Her other friendships are not forgotten, though!
In conclusion, I have written the word friendship/friends a total of 32 times in this blog post! Obviously this list is not exhaustive, but I hope that many you will find something in this list to read that will show you some great examples of healthy friendships!