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Teen

11 YA Books That Highlight the Importance of Friendship

by Laura Lambert

teen friendship
Image credit: FatCamera/Getty Images

Friendship is everything in your teens.  Part of that is simply developmental — it’s the time when we begin to develop our own sense of self, apart from our families, and friends are a vital part of that shift. That’s why it makes sense that real friendships — intimate friendships, emotional friendships — are the lifeblood of YA. What do we share? What do we keep secret? What happens when one of the most important relationships of our lives falls apart — or even just changes?

These 11 books about friendship help us answer those questions. Though friendship looks a little different right now, it’s still vitally important for teens to keep those relationships alive – even if they have to do so from behind a screen.

  • When the Ground Is Hard

    by Malla Nunn

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    When the Ground Is Hard won the 2019 Los Angeles Times Book Prize for Young Adult Literature. It’s historical fiction, about Apartheid-era Swaziland circa 1965. And while there are robust, sprawling themes — like race and class — Nunn’s book is held together by the evolution of an unlikely friendship between two girls: Adèle, once one of the popular girls, and Lottie Diamond, a social outcast.

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  • The Beauty That Remains

    by Ashley Woodfolk

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    Relationships are at the heart of this, Ashley Woodfolk’s debut novel. Long Island teenagers Autumn, Shay, and Logan have all experienced loss in their own way, which connects them as much as their connection to the same band, Unravelling Lovely. School Library Journal writes, “Woodfolk has written a lovely and introspective coming-of-age novel that fully captures the way friendship, music, family, and romance dovetail to create a young person’s identity.”

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  • What to Say Next

    by Julie Buxbaum

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    The line between friendship and romance can grow blurry sometimes. In What to Say Next, the unlikely friendship between Kit Lowell, a popular high school junior dealing with the death of her father, and David Drucker, a socially awkward and isolated classmate on the autism spectrum, blossoms when Kit sits down at the lunch table where David usually sits alone. Their story is told in split first-person, so the reader has insight into how their connection evolves.

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  • Someone Like You

    by Sarah Dessen

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    How much can a friendship endure? Death? An unplanned pregnancy? New love? Halley and Scarlett have been best friends for years, but in their junior year of high school their relationship faces the kind of change you can’t predict. “Walking a line between childhood and adulthood, the two girls turn to each other instead of their families for support. Together they explore the meaning of love, sex and responsibility,” writes Publishers Weekly.

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  • Scars Like Wings

    by Erin Stewart

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    It’s one thing to survive the fire that kills everything you love, it’s another to move forward as a burn victim trying to make sense of a new normal. When 16-year-old Ava returns to high school after tragedy, she meets Piper — a fellow burn victim — and together, they piece together Ava’s new life. Kirkus Reviews calls it, “A tender, frank coming-of-age story about the pain and power of survival.”

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  • Darius the Great Is Not Okay

    by Adib Khorram

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    The trials of female friendship are common in YA, but something that’s less commonly covered are the ups and downs of male relationships. In Darius the Great Is Not Okay, it’s the friendship between Darius, a half Iranian-American teen battling clinical depression, and Sohrab, literally the boy next door when Darius visits Iran for the first time.

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  • Wilder Girls

    by Rory Power

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    Quarantine has a completely different meaning right now. But in July 2019, when Wilder Girls debuted, it was related to the Tox: a strange, deadly virus running rampant through The Raxter School for Girls, on a remote island off the coast of Maine. This novel of female friendship is set against the backdrop of a dystopian future, as 16-year-old best friends, Hetty and Byatt, tell the often violent story in alternating chapters.

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  • When You Were Everything

    by Ashley Woodfolk

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    Ashely Woodfolk, author of The Beauty That Remains, is also the author of the equally excellent When You Were Everything, about a best friendship between two 16-year-old girls, Layla and Cleo — and what happens when it falls apart. The story is told from two points in time — Then and Now — and offers a unique perspective on friendship.

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  • Seafire

    by Natalie C. Parker

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    “Set in a vaguely defined distant future, this tale of sisterhood on the high seas introduces an all-female crew of rebels who survive by raiding the ships of the ruthless warlord who controls the local waters,” explains Publishers Weekly. Best friends Caledonia and Pisces are at the helm of the all-female crew in the first book of the trilogy.

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  • Rayne & Deliah’s Midnite Matinee

    by Jeff Zentner

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    Every Friday night, best friends and high school seniors, Josie and Delia, become Rayne Ravenscroft and Delilah Darkwood — hosts of a kitschy horror and sci-fi show on local cable. And like so many high school friendships, the impending change of graduation threatens everything they know and love.

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  • No One Here Is Lonely

    by Sarah Everett

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    It takes a lot to fill the hole of a best friendship that has faltered. And for Eden Paulsen, the hole left by the demise of her friendship with Lacey is now filled by a software program that keeps the memory of Will, her recently deceased crush, alive — at least, in the digital sense.

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