Many women know that friendships make up some of the most powerful, long-lasting, and complex relationships of their lives. So many movies and television shows — from Thelma and Louise to Bridesmaids, and from Laverne and Shirley to, ahem, Friends — showcase these bonds through the fights, the struggles, and those fun times you tell stories about 30 years later. So why then is friendship missing from so much contemporary fiction? The Guardian examined the lack of friendship in literature, looking back all the way to The Illiad to explain why this most powerful relationship is often relegated to the subplot.
So often, according to The Guardian's AD MIller, the vocabulary authors use to talk about friendship is stolen from types of other relationships — saying, for example, your BFF is "like a sister." We're missing words to singularly describe an important friendship.
"Without our friendships, life would be thin," Miller writes. "On the other hand, from a certain, instrumental point of view, they are inessential, eccentric luxuries ... such benefits are less tangible than those of spouses, children or parents."
But it's precisely the fact that we choose these relationships, unlike children or siblings or parents, that makes them vital, plus they don't have the "fall-back rationale of sex" as to why two people stick together, Miller says. Still, they're harder to depict honestly because they're not as easily described. And so, many contemporary fiction writers sidestep friendship for family or spouse/partner relationships.
However, there are contemporary fiction writers tackling the almost indescribable bond of friendship, both in adult and YA, and these seven novels about friendship are a great starting point:
Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein
Code Name Verity is set against a backdrop of World War II and Nazi-occupied France, and it's a thrilling spy story that will have you white-knuckle gripping the pages. But at its heart, Wein's novel is a story about a friendship. When a spy, code-name Verity, crashes in France, she's imprisoned by the Gestapo, leaving her friend and pilot Maddie in the wreck. As she's questioned by the Nazis, Verity looks back at her friendship with Maddie and wonders if their bond is strong enough for Maddie to save her life.
This Song Will Save Your Life by Leila Sales
Elise Dembowski is an outcast, spending many of her high school days alone. That is, until she finds her way to a warehouse party, and more importantly, to the people who populate that party. Elise meets a group of women, Pippa, Vicki, and Char, who encourage her burgeoning love of DJing and push her to pursue it. The YA novel is a testament to how friendship can help you rise up and become who you want to be.
NW by Zadie Smith
NW is a love letter to London, but it's the group of friends who bring that love to life. Leah, Natalie, Felix and Nathan are linked by their home in London, specifically the neighborhood in the northwest, and it bands them together for a lifetime, though racial and class struggles, marriage, drugs, and everything else. The characters and London itself feel alive and real, like the people and the places you know from your own life.
How Should a Person Be? by Sheila Heti
Heti's novel is part-memoir, as it's inspired by the author's real conversations she recorded with her best friend, a free-spirited painter named Margaux. Through these conversations, you get an honest look into what builds and maintains a friendship and the things best friends talk about when no one else is listening. It's just as hilarious, raunchy, philosophical, and frank as your friendships are in your own life.
The Interestings by Meg Wolitzer
The Interesting s follows six best friends from summer 1974 when they met at a summer camp for the arts until decades later in New York City, when marriage, career paths, and money threaten to create divides. Wolitzer knows that even BFFs aren't really best friends all the time, and that growing up and outside circumstances can change relationships in ways it's hard to fix.
Since You've Been Gone by Morgan Matson
Emily's outgoing and outspoken friend Sloane inspired the former wallflower to be bold, grabbing her hand and taking her on adventures big and small. So Emily expected a seriously epic summer, but instead she found Sloane missing, having left a note. And on that note was a to-do list for Emily, listing 13 wild tasks she must complete: crash a wedding, kiss a stranger, go skinny-dipping, and more. To find her missing friend, Emily sets out to complete every one, inspired every step of the way by her wild, risk-taking best friend.
Neapolitan Novels series by Elena Ferrante
In Elena Ferrante's Neapolitan novels, friendship, not love, is the great relationship for a lifetime. My Brilliant Friend , The Story of a New Name , and Those Who Leave and Those Who Stay (along with the upcoming fourth novel) capture the highs and lows of Ferrante's lifelong friendship with Lila. Elena and Lila met in childhood, and bonded over their competitive spirits. As their home in Italy grows and changes, so does their friendship, moving and shaping but never dying.