Thursday, July 22, 2010

Posted by Laurel Garver on Thursday, July 22, 2010 10 comments
I just finished Melina Marchetta's Saving Francesca last week and really loved it. One aspect I especially liked was the way she develops non-romantic friendships between the teen guys and the girls who "invade" their once-all-boys school that goes co-ed.

Perhaps it's because my nearest sibling is a brother that I had loads of guy friends all through school. Boys brought something cool and interesting to the table that many girls didn't.

In grade school, it was the boys who eagerly went along with my imaginative play ideas. If I said the monkeybars were a spaceship, Duane would say, "Yeah, and I'm gonna run the lasers!" Jen, on the other hand, would stand there with her arms crossed over her chest and tell us we're dumb. Then she'd go play hopscotch or some other boringly conventional game.

In our monkeybar spaceship games, I often chose to play the comms or navs officer or the doctor. Soon other girls created roles they liked and would join our crew. We ran some pretty kickin' missions. There was something magical about mixing our different strengths. Our "soft" and "rough" ways of approaching the world balanced each other.

Those fun times of childhood carried on into junior high, high school and college when I got involved in band, choir and theater and started playing D&D. Mixed groups were what I preferred. Occasionally romances would develop. But most of the time, we just enjoyed each other. Had fun. Had amazing conversations. Challenged one another. Offered support, listening ears and advice.

Sadly, guys and girls being great friends not a dynamic I see as often as I'd like in YA. Romantic attachments, flirting and mind-games is the predominant way guys and girls relate in books for teens. The romances that develop are often about surface attraction--the characters have no common interests, traits or goals. I'd love to see more "book teens" enjoying the benefits of cross-gender friendships, like Harry, Ron, Hermione, Luna and Neville do.

What's your take on guy-girl friendships? Know of any YA books that represent healthy cross-gender friendships well?

10 comments:

  1. Ahh, I feel special that I have a guy/girl friendship now. I love it! I don't know how much I REALLY believe guys and girls can be just friends based on my own personal experiences, especially in hormonal hell high school, but I like the idea. Me likey boys.

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  2. My best friend is a guy, and I love him to death. I don't have many girl friends, so in a way I do miss out on a lot of the girl stuff, but I guess that's okay.

    Great post!

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  3. Maybe you could explore that friendship between guys and girls and fill the gap?

    I used to think my swing set was a space ship as well!

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  4. Good point, that type of relationship is very under represented.

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  5. I've always had great guy friends and my husband has always had great friendships with women. But you're right. We don't see that much in any genre. And I'd like to see more of it explored.

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  6. JEM: Ha. Maybe I was fooling myself that my HS guy friends weren't into me? I don't think so. If there's one thing I learned from them, it's the male tendency to compartmentalize. I was squarely in the "buddy" box.

    Victoria: I still feel like I have a bit of a learning curve when it comes to being a good pal to my girlfriends. It's just different--and more emotionally intense--than with guys.

    Aubrie: I suspect it will become a theme I explore, since I feel pretty passionate about it.

    I'm glad to hear you're a girl who would've joined our spaceship adventures. Hooray for imaginative play!

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  7. Laraine: perhaps this may prove a niche for me to explore. As much as I love friendships that blossom into romance, I also really love male-female friendships that stay solidly friendly and sibling-like.

    Sarahjayne: I wonder how much of that under-representation is because of the idea that Harry voices in _When Harry Met Sally_ : "Men and women can't be friends. Sex always gets in the way." Does it? In reality don't we all compartmentalize relationships to a degree?

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  8. Laurel, you were exactly the kind of girl I envied. I have 3 wonderful sisters but I always wanted a brother so I could have his friends hang around.

    I want to go play one of your games now. Such incredible memories.

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  10. Mary: Aw, really? It's funny how the grass is greener on the other side of the fence, huh? My sister and I are 15 years apart, so I feel deficient in my skills at relating to other girls, so I also kind of envy what you had.

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