Bookish Discussion

{Getting Wordy} Friendships in Books

As a person who looks at the characters and only then at the plot, it’s no surprise that I care deeply about the characters’ relationship with others. I love reading about family dynamics and about romantic pairings, but friendships in books take the cake for me. ๐Ÿฐ As such, it makes me extremely glad that friendships have slowly but surely taken an important place in fiction, including in YA fiction. ๐Ÿ˜Š

Despite adoring friendships in books, there are certain dynamics and tropes I dislike… and just as many that I absolutely adore. As such, today I’m sharing the best and worst types of friendships in books.

The Dynamic Between the Main and Supporting Character(s)

This might be the most basic point of this post, but I think it’s important to highlight, nonetheless. If there is an incredibly strong sidekick + main character dynamic between the friends, it probably won’t work for me. By sidekick, I refer to characters who (1) are present only so the protagonist can say they have a best friend, (2) are only included for comic relief, (3) disappear conveniently when the plot doesn’t require their presence, or (4) are easy target for the author to kill off.

We all know that books have main and supporting characters, and that’s not the issue; in fact, some of my all time favorite characters are supporting characters. Granted, Martin from The Magnus Archives is not a book character, but I’d protect him at all cost, and he’s ‘merely’ a supporting character. The thing is – even though the focus is decidedly not on these types of characters, they can be just as fleshed out and well-written as the protagonist. Sidekicks on the other hand are just that – a sidekick to the protagonist with no real personality of their own.

Conflicts Between the Friends

Rereading the Hunger Games has really driven home the fact that I hate toxic friendships, especially when that toxicity is not called out. (If it’s addressed and worked out, that’s a different matter altogether!) Throughout the series, we see Gale manipulate Katniss as he tries to control what she does and who she chooses to be with. Not only is this behavior not called out, but much of the series is spent with Katniss trying to be a good friend to Gale. Even when certain faults of Gale are addressed at the end, I just wasn’t satisfied with the way this “friendship” was written.

What I do like, however, is when a friendship is imperfect and messy, but this is written in a thoughtful, meaningful way. In real life, many friends argue; they have conflicts, and then they work things out. I love to see the more imperfect parts of friendship, especially in Young Adult books. A good example is Uprooted – it’s never a question that Agnieszka and Kasia love each other, but they are not always on the same page and they even get jealous of each other. It happens, the important thing is that they recognize this as problematic, grow as individuals and thus their friendship is also able to mature.

Romance & Friendship

You may think that I’m going to talk about friends to lovers couples, but I have no problem with that trope; I actually think it’s pretty wholesome. ๐Ÿฅฐ What I do have a problem with is when friends who have little to no chemistry with each other are pushed together to create drama in the novel. Thankfully, I haven’t seen this dynamic recently, but boy, was it a prominent part of older YA novels! Look at Clary and Simon from The Mortal Instruments; it was clear that they wouldn’t end up together, and yet, they were pushed together to create a love triangle. (We shall not talk about the fact that on the other side of this love triangle is a guy Clary believes to be her brother… for two whole books. ๐Ÿคฎ)

Another trope I hate is when friends don’t have time for each other because they’re dating someone. It feels terribly unrealistic that someone in a healthy relationship would abandon their friends completely and claim that they have no time for them, because of their significant other. Again, I think books from recent years have been wonderful at disproving this.

Family and Friends

I have a soft spot for found families made up of friends. ๐Ÿฅบ They’re so wholesome and lovely, and they get bonus points if the characters seem to not fit together easily. I also love it when one of the protagonists’ has a wonderful family that ends up “adopting” the protagonist’s friend(s) that don’t have a (good) family of their own. ๐Ÿฅบ It’s beautiful when someone who never had this kind of love finds it with friends.

They actually have nothing to do with family, but I love long-distance friendships, and I didn’t know where to put them. ๐Ÿ˜… Soo… Moving on to them! As someone who’s had really incredible online friends, I do believe that long-distance friendships work, even if you’ve never met these friends. We see this in Talia Hibbert’s A Girl Like Her, where Ruth has a close friend she met online. A more recent example is Beach Read, where the protagonist lives pretty far away from her best friend and they’re only able to see each other sporadically. Yet, when trouble strikes, these friends are there for each other – either online or offline, in whichever way it is possible.

Let’s chat!

What type of relationships do you care about the most in books: family, friendship, or romance? What are your favorite types of friendships in books? What about your least favorites? Any positive examples I should know about?

31 thoughts on “{Getting Wordy} Friendships in Books

  1. I love reading about friendships! I love the best friendships that we get to see, especially when the friend gets their own little storyline so we see how they interact with each other, and how the friends support each other through their ups and downs and it is not just main character focused. Friends to lovers is one of my favourite tropes โค And friends that also meld with the family? Forever a plus in my book!

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  2. Yesssssss, there is such a difference between a BFF and a sidekick and you described it perfectly! I LOVE friendships in books (especially found families adoijafioeajdlskfj), so this post was just all kinds of wholesome and perfect.

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  3. What a terrific post! I love love love reading about friendships in books. As much of a romance reader I am, I think I love friendships in books more. I love what you had to say about toxic friendships vs. messy friendships because I’m the same. I love reading about messy friendships and how the characters work through the issues. And found family is one of my favorite tropes, especially when the setting is a fantasy or post-apocalyptic one.

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    1. Thank you! ๐Ÿฅฐ I feel the same way – I love romance in books, but there is something about a well-written friendship that makes books so special for me. Yeah, those are such different concepts and I *hate* when a toxic friendship is sold as something acceptable.. Yes, found family is the best in fantasy and dystopia, I think. ๐Ÿ˜€

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  4. I don’t believe I have any reviews that don’t laud the friendships in a book I read. Even when I think about contemporary romances, the authors usually assemble a great friend group for the hero/heroine. I am also a sucker for found family. Never fails to please me. I have to say, though, that I have had many friends, who had “no time” once they were in a serious relationship. I never tried to be that person, but they do exist. I understand seeing it in books.

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  5. This just made me feel all warm and bubbly inside!! I love friendships so much, more specifically found family ones. There’s something so wholesome and sweet and uplifting about a group of mismatched characters coming together and sticking together through everything. ๐Ÿฅบ I haven’t read a lot of it in books, but I do love it to death. Any recommendations?
    I also agree with you on long-distance friendships! Most of the people I’d call my friends I’ve met online, and I haven’t met any of them in person but they’re all very special friendships. I don’t think I’ve seen that kind of friendship before though.
    Ahh, this post just gave me all the feels and I want to read a nice friendship right now. And I also love the pictures you used; it totally added to the soft lovable emotions ๐Ÿฅบโคโœจ

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    1. Ahh, thank you so much! I’m so glad you enjoyed my post and I’m especially happy it made you happy. ๐Ÿฅฐ Found family is the best, omg. Uh, I’m really bad with on the spot recs, haha, but I do love the found family in Want by Cindy Pon. Ah, I wish we were given more example of online friendships – the friends I’ve met online mean so much to me. ๐Ÿฅบ

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  6. Friendship books! My greatest weakness!

    I loved what you said about toxic and messy friendships in books โ€“ theyโ€™re incredibly frustrating when not called out (like Katniss and Gale, oof), but I love when books explore them in a more complex and interesting way.

    Ahhh found families are the best trope!!! Itโ€™s so beautiful when a character who has never had those kind of familial relationships finds it with their friends. I cry every time. ๐Ÿ˜ญ And I love it whenever I read about healthy and supportive long-distance friendships, since many of my closest friends live far away.

    Basically, yes, give me all the book friendships, please! โค

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Same, same – I love bookish friendships so much. ๐Ÿ˜ญ Haha, I love to see that the Katniss and Gale example resonates with you – I was so angry reading about their “friendship.”

      Yes, found families are so soft and wholesome, oh my god. Same, and I also have online friends – I’d love to read those in books, too.

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  7. Are we over toxic friendships in YA? Yes, I think we are. I don’t read many contemporaries (unless you count magic realism), and I rarely read thrillers, but it sounds like this trope is slowly dying, and I’m so ready for it.

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  8. Found family is my jam!!! I think every single one of my favourite series has a wonderful friendship group at its core. I’m sure that’s what makes them my favourites. I always remember those characters long after I’ve finished the book.

    Also shout out to Martin from TMA for being the best side character ever. I’ll never stop laughing over that compilation of every time John complains about him ๐Ÿ˜‚

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  9. Not quite sure I totally agree with you about the sidekicks – sometimes they’re really important for the development of the main character. This is a post I’m going to have to think about and maybe steal for a future discussion post of my own. Thanks!

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