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The Power of Platonic…Heterosexual Friendships that Work in MG & YA

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So, last year Ms. Rowling says perhaps she should have paired Harry Potter with Hermione Granger, and at first I found myself involuntarily nodding my head to her new tune. And then I stopped myself. “What, what, whaaa?”

Sure, even the best authors will have second guesses about story arcs, character flaws, and the way we wrap up the whole enchilada at the very happy (or not so much) ending, but one thing I will never question the illustrious Rowling about is her ability to make one of my most favorite literary heterosexual friendships sing.

And she’s not the only one who’s done it, although the offerings in heterosexual friendships are small and not always convincing. However, I managed to pick out a few of my favorites, in both middle grade and young adult offerings, that really pack a punch to the story, and in one case, almost steal the scene from the central romance (love that!).

The Book Thief (Markus Zusack) – Despite the gravity of content in this novel, and the not altogether quite clear beginning (if you are just starting it, keep going, keep going!), this book develops characters in such a winsome and clever way that I found myself sucked in before I even knew The Book Thief was a vortex of intense, genre-straddling narrative. And no one could argue that had it not been for Max, the young Jewish man who so genuinely and innocently befriends Liesel, the book would not have triumphed the way it did in the end.  It is an unconventional friendship such as this that convinces the reader that not only can friendship leap the bounds of gender, but it can vault across racial and ethnic canyons in a way pure rhetoric never will.

Wonder (R.J. Palacio) – I cannot say enough good things about this book. I CANNOT SAY ENOUGH GOOD THINGS ABOUT THIS BOOK (in case you missed that the first time). But beyond the myriad reasons any one of any age should read it, the purely platonic friendship that springs up between August and Summer (and yes, there is a clever discussion about their names!) made my heart sing with love for the people who think about being nice and act on it. Is there any attraction on August’s part to Summer? The author doesn’t even go there, and they are young anyway (5th grade). Besides, there’s so much to love about the way August and Summer interact—the equality in the friendship that at first seems one sided—that you may find yourself thinking that romance is sometimes overrated. Write accordingly!

My Life Next Door (Huntley Fitzpatrick) – At its core, this is a romance novel about the characters Samantha and Jase, but I would not have devoured this novel had it not been for the often hilarious and always irreverent Tim.  Tim’s history with Samantha as brother of her best friend, and his self-destructive behavior, make his epiphany and the way he offers support all the more endearing in the story. He also adds a level of humor that you don’t get between the two main characters, helping an already good book jump into the category of great (and he sometimes steals the scene altogether, as I mentioned).

Those are just a few examples I’ve found, but I’m dying to know of others! Please post below other powerful heterosexual friendships you’ve found in tween and teen lit!

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