Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Posted by Laurel Garver on Tuesday, March 18, 2014 3 comments
When I read Melina Marchetta's Saving Francesca, it really resonated with me. What 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.

photo by click, morguefile.com
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 Dungeons and Dragons. 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?

3 comments:

  1. Awww, I think I lost my comment! And it was a long one too! But I think you and I must have been having similar friendship vibes this week. Loved the monkey bar spaceship friends!

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    1. Actually, your post inspired me, and I realized that friendships generally get a bit underplayed to romance and family drama in YA.

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  2. I always had close guy friends, mostly because I was used to hanging out with brothers, but I'm not sure how many of them had crushes on me and how many were just friends. My hubby tells me there were lots of broken hearted guys when he snatched me up. (Which is very kind of him to say.) I definitely include cross genre friendships in my books.

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