YA A to Z: F is for Female Friendship
I am very honored to be the “Second Mom” to The Teen’s best friend, who we call The Bestie here at TLT. I have known this girl since she was in the 3rd grade and I truly consider her to be a part of my family. When I travel, I text her and keep in touch with her just as I do the two girls that I have given birth to. I feel very blessed to have her as an honorary family member and I love seeing her friendship with my daughter. As someone who moved a lot – hello, military brat – I never really got to have the type of BFFs that you read about in books. I am so delighted to see my daughter have one of her own and am proud to see the women they are becoming separately and together. Because of all of this, one of the things I always notice when reading YA is the best friend quotient. I like to give them both books that highlight besties and realistically portray the ups and downs of female friendship. My hope is that it will help them to develop realistic expectations and remind them that even in the moments where their friendship is tried and tested, as all friendships are, that they will make the choice and do the work of maintaining and nurturing their friendship. I’ve posted some of my favorite female friendship books before, and you can read that post here, but I’ve read some new ones to add to the list so keep reading.
Stay Sweet by Siobhan Vivian
Summer in Sand Lake isn’t complete without a trip to Meade Creamery—the local ice cream stand founded in 1944 by Molly Meade who started making ice cream to cheer up her lovesick girlfriends while all the boys were away at war. Since then, the stand has been owned and managed exclusively by local girls, who inevitably become the best of friends. Seventeen-year-old Amelia and her best friend Cate have worked at the stand every summer for the past three years, and Amelia is “Head Girl” at the stand this summer. When Molly passes away before Amelia even has her first day in charge, Amelia isn’t sure that the stand can go on. That is, until Molly’s grandnephew Grady arrives and asks Amelia to stay on to help continue the business…but Grady’s got some changes in mind…
This summer I had the honor of having The Teen volunteer with me at my library, which meant every day we drove back and forth from work together and listened to audio books. One of our favorites was Stay Sweet. I loved listening to this book with The Teen for a wide variety of reasons. It is no exaggeration when I tell you that we laughed and we cried together listening to this book. There are some very moving and emotional scenes and we balled. There may have been snottage.
One of my favorite things about this book was how much it emphasized the power and importance of female friendship. From the very beginning we step foot into this world where there is a strong emphasis put on empowering women and that stream of thought is never lost. Even when our main character’s friendship is put to the test and strained, as most friendships will be, the significance of and dedication to one another remains powerful.
As you may recall, The Teen and The Bestie often help me out a lot here at TLT and I take them to a lot of book events. When we finished this book I immediately thought, we need to make sure you both have a copy of this book to remind you of what being a best friend can look like as you make the transition from graduating high school. This goes right into both of their collections.
This book is moving, thoughtful, and a powerful story that reminds girls that they can learn, grow, be empowered and achieve their dreams. Sharing this book and this summer with The Teen will always have very deep and lasting meaning for me, and I hope The Bestie will love it as well.
Sawkill Girls by Claire Legrand
Publisher’s Book Description:
Beware of the woods and the dark, dank deep.
He’ll follow you home, and he won’t let you sleep.
Who are the Sawkill Girls?
Marion: the new girl. Awkward and plain, steady and dependable. Weighed down by tragedy and hungry for love she’s sure she’ll never find.
Zoey: the pariah. Luckless and lonely, hurting but hiding it. Aching with grief and dreaming of vanished girls. Maybe she’s broken—or maybe everyone else is.
Val: the queen bee. Gorgeous and privileged, ruthless and regal. Words like silk and eyes like knives, a heart made of secrets and a mouth full of lies.
Their stories come together on the island of Sawkill Rock, where gleaming horses graze in rolling pastures and cold waves crash against black cliffs. Where kids whisper the legend of an insidious monster at parties and around campfires.
Where girls have been disappearing for decades, stolen away by a ravenous evil no one has dared to fight… until now.
This may in some ways be a weird book to include on a list like this. After all, it’s a dark paranormal mystery where a lot of girls die. It is also, however, the story of two girls who become friends and try to help each other solve the mystery of what it happening to the Sawkill Girls and how they can save themselves and each other from being the next one. This is a very compelling read with a lot of feminist undertones; it seriously makes some bold declarations about what it means to be a girl in this world. I think Sawkill Girls will be a phenomenal success when it comes out in October of this year.
Exit, Pursued by a Bear by E K Johnston
Publisher’s Book Description:
Hermione Winters is captain of her cheerleading team, and in tiny Palermo Heights, this doesn’t mean what you think it means. At PHHS, the cheerleaders don’t cheer for the sports teams; they are the sports team—the pride and joy of a tiny town. The team’s summer training camp is Hermione’s last and marks the beginning of the end of… she’s not sure what. She does know this season could make her a legend. But during a camp party, someone slips something in her drink. And it all goes black.
In every class, there’s a star cheerleader and a pariah pregnant girl. They’re never supposed to be the same person. Hermione struggles to regain the control she’s always had and faces a wrenching decision about how to move on. The assault wasn’t the beginning of Hermione Winter’s story and she’s not going to let it be the end. She won’t be anyone’s cautionary tale.
I love this book and it is one of my favorites because of the way the two best friends deal with the sexual assault of one half of their duo. Johnston describes this book as a fantasy because it is the way she wishes we handled sexual assault compared to the ways in which we do. When Hermione is assaulted her best friend stands by her and up for her and it is glorious. In your moments of darkest need, everyone needs a best friend like this.
The Wicked Deep by Shea Earnshaw
Publisher’s Book Description:
Welcome to the cursed town of Sparrow…
Where, two centuries ago, three sisters were sentenced to death for witchery. Stones were tied to their ankles and they were drowned in the deep waters surrounding the town.
Now, for a brief time each summer, the sisters return, stealing the bodies of three weak-hearted girls so that they may seek their revenge, luring boys into the harbor and pulling them under.
Like many locals, seventeen-year-old Penny Talbot has accepted the fate of the town. But this year, on the eve of the sisters’ return, a boy named Bo Carter arrives; unaware of the danger he has just stumbled into.
Mistrust and lies spread quickly through the salty, rain-soaked streets. The townspeople turn against one another. Penny and Bo suspect each other of hiding secrets. And death comes swiftly to those who cannot resist the call of the sisters.
But only Penny sees what others cannot. And she will be forced to choose: save Bo, or save herself.
This is one of the teens favorite books of this year. It’s another dark paranormal – what can I say, we have a type – that also has a strong friendship tucked inside the pages. Also, there are witches! Friendship, romance, witches and local legends make for a pretty enthralling read.
The Nowhere Girls by Amy Reed
Publisher’s Book Description
Three misfits come together to avenge the rape of a fellow classmate and in the process trigger a change in the misogynist culture at their high school transforming the lives of everyone around them in this searing and timely story.
Who are the Nowhere Girls?
They’re everygirl. But they start with just three:
Grace Salter is the new girl in town, whose family was run out of their former community after her southern Baptist preacher mom turned into a radical liberal after falling off a horse and bumping her head.
Rosina Suarez is the queer punk girl in a conservative Mexican immigrant family, who dreams of a life playing music instead of babysitting her gaggle of cousins and waitressing at her uncle’s restaurant.
Erin Delillo is obsessed with two things: marine biology and Star Trek: The Next Generation, but they aren’t enough to distract her from her suspicion that she may in fact be an android.
When Grace learns that Lucy Moynihan, the former occupant of her new home, was run out of town for having accused the popular guys at school of gang rape, she’s incensed that Lucy never had justice. For their own personal reasons, Rosina and Erin feel equally deeply about Lucy’s tragedy, so they form an anonymous group of girls at Prescott High to resist the sexist culture at their school, which includes boycotting sex of any kind with the male students.
Told in alternating perspectives, this groundbreaking novel is an indictment of rape culture and explores with bold honesty the deepest questions about teen girls and sexuality.
This is another meaningful contemporary that explores themes of sexual assault and teenage sexuality while giving us some strong female friendships. Here, a group of girls come together and fight the system while exploring who they are and trying to stand up for what they think is right. It’s powerfully, hand down, pull no punches feminism and it rocks! Also, there are a lot of intersectional friendships that happen here and it’s great to have some strong female friendships that are intersectional.
What YALit with a strong female friendship would you add to our list? Let us know in the comments below. The Teen and The Bestie may want to read them!
Filed under: #YAAtoZ
About Karen Jensen, MLS
Karen Jensen has been a Teen Services Librarian for almost 30 years. She created TLT in 2011 and is the co-editor of The Whole Library Handbook: Teen Services with Heather Booth (ALA Editions, 2014).
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