Wednesday, January 27, 2016

The YA Sisterhood: Writing Positive Girl Friendships in YA by Catherine Doyle

I'm really happy today to be sharing with you a guest post by Catherine Doyle, the author of both Vendetta and Inferno. Inferno was published at the beginning of this month and both books are incredible exciting and addictive and action-packed. There are wonderful characters and relationships and friendships. Sophie and Millie are such an amazing pair of best friends, so I'm glad Catherine chose to write about their relationship and about girls' friendships in general today. 

Over to you, Catherine...

The YA Sisterhood: Writing Positive Girl Friendships in YA 
by Catherine Doyle

When I set out to write the Blood for Blood trilogy, I had a very clear goal in mind. I wanted to write about that bright, positive light a best friend brings into your life, to explore that deep sense of loyalty within female friendships. I wanted to write about the relationships that have been most important to me, the ones that anchor and nourish.

I didn’t want to write about petty jealousy, or boy-stealing, or fat-shaming, or ‘mean girls’. I didn’t want to write a best friend who hovered in the background while the protagonist had all the adventures, nor did I want to create a cardboard cut-out character or a love rival. I wanted to write something real, something lasting, and most importantly, something aspirational.

Positive female friendships often feel like a rarity in YA fiction. Usually there’s a boy in the way, or an agenda, or, in the case of thrillers, an impending death. They don’t seem to last very long, or run very deep. Romantic stories and platonic friendship stories, for some reason, often seem to be mutually exclusive. If there’s a love interest in the story, the friendship aspect suffers. If there’s a friendship taking centre stage, romance doesn’t get much of a look-in. As much as I wanted Sophie’s story to be about romance, I also wanted it to be about friendship, too.

In the search for romance, the YA best friend often gets relegated to the back of the plot, where she waits for an occasional high-five, to give out a well-timed scolding or to turn her back on the protagonist at the first sign of strife. Or she’s the shoulder to cry on, the phone call in the night-time, always kept slightly out of the loop. She is a supporting character. She is very rarely the lead. And she should be. Romance cannot be the only thing that matters.

I’m not saying this isn’t indicative of some people’s teenage experience. At a time when young girls are trying to figure themselves out, the quest for boys can often override the desire to maintain a healthy, committed friendship. People drop the ball. It happens. And so it happens a lot in YA too. The problem with this is that it sends a message and it repeats a message that’s already out there: romantic relationships will fulfill you, and friendships should come second or third. No. No no no no no.

When I was a teenager I fell for a slightly sociopathic boy and didn’t heed my friends’ advice on the matter. I became enamoured with the idea of being in love – with the idea of being wanted. My priorities went askew. It took me a while to realize my mistake, and to learn a very important lesson: female friendships are a constancy – romantic partners, especially during your teenage years, are not. At the beginning of Vendetta, Sophie Gracewell might be a bit naive, but one thing she is sure of is her best friend, Millie. The greatest bond is their own. It is absent of resentment or jealousy. It’s a sisterhood. It’s important.

After Vendetta came out, I received emails from readers declaring themselves ‘Team Nic’, or ‘Team Luca’ (and even some, randomly, ‘Team Dom’). Inferno has just been released, and already I am getting feedback that diverts a little from the ‘I want a Luca’ and settles a little more firmly on the ‘I want a Millie.’ I’m not saying you can’t have both (wouldn’t that be great?!) – but to wish for a strong, empathetic, mutually-supportive friendship in your life is definitely a good thing!

Inferno by Catherine Doyle was published 7th January by Chicken House Books, I highly recommend that you go out and find a copy! 

1 comment:

  1. This is a really interesting post :) I love Catherine Doyle's argument about friendships. I haven't read Vendetta or Inferno but I've seen a lot about them lately and if the female friendship is as strong as she says I think I definitely have to get on this! :)


HI! Thank you for leaving a comment, you've just become my new best friend :)