|photo by click, morguefile.com|
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?