Monday, December 16, 2013

#TopFictionalGirlfriends

So I was randomly wasting time on YouTuBe when I came across a top ten fictional boyfriends tag, which was interesting in of itself. But then I wondered if there was an equivalent for girlfriends. A quick search revealed one video on top ten boyfriends and girlfriends tag, which quickly dissolved into a top ten fictional couples tag. I had better luck with Google, where I came across a few top ten best lists, (followed by some top ten worst lists), and I got in a perusal before my head started ticking.

Readers, not just on the Book Lantern, but in general, have commented on the deficit in quality female relationships depicted in mainstream media, and in YA in particular. I did not, however, realise that this kind of problem extended into the blogosphere (or maybe no-one ever thought to bring up a fictional girlfriends tag.) Why, though? Even at the worst of it, for every annoying heroine, there seems to be one we like. Surely, then, we can find ten ladies we want to be friends/girlfriends/it’s-complicated with.

This is where this list comes in. I went through my shelves and, sure enough, quickly came up with quite a few examples of girls I want to be friends with. However, rather than rate them in a top ten manner, I decided to showcase some of the variety of possible female relationships that can be done. Thus, dear fledging and not-so-fledging writers, you no longer have the excuse of not knowing how women interact.

As this is a girlfriends list, I’m only including those whom I think I, personally, think I would make a meaningful connection with. Some of my favourite badasses won’t be making it up here, not because I don’t want them to, but there is a difference between Idol, Role Model, Favourite Wish Fulfilment, and One You Love to Hate. Some of them make it. Others do not. As such, no Fever Crumb or Hester Shaw, even though I love both of them, and also I’ll be limiting myself to one lady per franchise because, let’s face it, Terry Pratchett’s characters would make up a rather disproportionate number here.

Finally, Ima tag some people at the bottom of this post because I want this hastag to spread (let’s see if that happens,) so you might wanna read on to see if it happens.

Now with that out of the way…


The One Who Will Have Your Back

Kicking off this list is Jack from Zoe Marriott’s “The Night Itself.” (And yes, Jack is a girl.) Best friend to protagonist Mio, and all-around-badass, Jack is the kind of friend who stays with you at a party because she knows it’s not your scene and doesn’t want you bored, looks after you if you overindulge, and makes sure you make it safely home in the end of the night. She’s funny and understanding, but also calls you out on your BS if she sees you. And, even though the supernatural stuff may freak her out (understandably so,) she won’t hesitate to strap on a weapon and march into the heart of the battle to help her loved ones.

The One Who Is So Like You, It’s Uncanny

Ever meet someone and you just click? Like, not only do you think similarly, but you have almost the same tastes, and even some of your life experiences are the same? The kind of person that, were it not painfully obvious, you would have thought you found a long-lost twin? In my case, this is Bria from Kirsten Hubbard’s “Wanderlove.”

In all seriousness, that book made me cry, the first time I read it. Part of it was the poignancy of the story, but I don’t think it would have hit so close to home had it not been for Bria, who was so much like me, it hurt. Like me, she was forced to give up a dream and re-evaluate her plans after life screwed her over. Like me, she was pissed off because no-one – not her family, not her friends – seemed to give her any sympathy. Like me, she had to step outside of the feeling in order to objectively evaluate things, and the way she took around it, her very thoughts and prejudices, were so much like mine, it was like I was reading about myself.

And no, that does not make me a fair judge of that book, and no, I don’t care one bit.

The One Who Is So Unlike You, You Would Never Think You’d Be Friends

Harmony from “Bumped.” I  don’t feel like I need to explain that one, given how many posts I’ve made deconstructing that book (and I’m not even halfway through yet,) but for reference, here are some of the main points:

Harmony comes from a very different background from mine, and, had I not seen some of the action through her eyes, I would have never, ever, understood her. She’s the kind of person you just don’t know how to handle. At the same time, though, she has the same core values as me – someone who helps others and who strives to do the right thing, someone who is confused by the complexities of life and tries to make sense of them while holding onto the illusions of childhood. It’s definitely something I can relate to, but the very different approaches Harmony might take from me are what makes a possible friendship so difficult.

The One You Want to Slap Sometimes

If we’re talking unlikable characters, Jeane Smith from “Adorkable” would have been my pick. But Jeane is too much of a recluse for that – she pushes people away and she’s quite okay with that, thank you very much (or is she?) She’s not as in-your-face as some other girls I have known, which makes her more like Bria to me.

So who fits this bill better?

I’d say Alona Dare from “The Ghost and the Goth.”

From the start, Alona is about as cuddly as a hedgehog. A self-absorbed cheerleader and queen bee, she remains just as haughty and arrogant after death as she is before it. She treats people like they’re servants that are put on this Earth to bow to her every whim, thus alienating them and making herself look untouchable, which makes her a lot like Jeane. Unlike Jeane, however, Alona goes beyond words, doing things over the course of the series that will make you both horrified, and strangely admiring. She’s a girl who does some really terrible, selfish things, and yet is willing to admit to being wrong and works towards making amends. She’s a friend you can’t stand, yet love at the same time.

The One Who Will Always Do The Right Thing, Even If You Hate Her For It

There’s always someone who feels older than her stated years, or at least someone who behaves as if she’s always seeing the universe from the outside, never as a participant. And it was hard for me to decide which one of Terry Pratchett’s ladies I want to befriend most (because I want to befriend them all) but in the end, I wanna go with Tiffany Aching from “The Wee Free Men”, “A Hat Full of Sky”, “Wintersmith” and “I Shall Wear Midnight.” (Susan Death was a close second.)

The reason why is probably because Tiffany is one of the youngest witches, and as such, we see her making mistakes and be human before she reaches Granny Weatherwax levels of awesome in her final novel. Much as I love all the witches, (and the women from the Watch, and the ones from Monstrous Regiment, and Susan, and Lady Sybill,) Tiffany was the one I identified most, and she was the one who constantly evolved with each story. And Tiffany’s attitude of getting things done is definitely something I love, even if sometimes, it makes her seem kind of detached from the rest of humanity.

The Frenemy

Emily Kane from “Heart-Shaped Bruise” by Tanya Byrne. This one’s slightly difficult because she’s a frenemy to a certain character, and try as I might, I can’t see myself identifying with Juliet (who was, in many ways, infuriating.) But Emily’s capacity for feeling is what makes her burn so bright on the page, and I think she will easily take it into her daily life.

That same power of feeling is what sets her apart from the one you want to slap sometimes – Alona sets herself apart, Emily is right there with you. Alona builds walls to stop herself from being hurt, Emily jumps head first. She loves you and hates you with all her heart, which makes a relationship even scarier.

The Ones Who Have Something Unbreakable

Bit of a cheat here, but Julie and Maddie from “Code Name Verity” are that. These are the friends who are bound together by something so strong, you can never be part of it, and you can never truly understand it. And no, I’m not talking about a romantic relationship either (though those do happen sometimes.) Julie and Maddie befriend each other during WWII and they go through a series of truly traumatic experiences together. They do things that change them forever and make them reconsider the very foundations of what makes them human. They’re the kind of friends you can only guess about, but who make your world more complete.

The Childhood Friend

Pippi Longstocking. Self-explanatory.

The Crush

There’s always one friend you’re not sure how you feel about. To me, that’s Lyrael from Garth Nix’s Old Kingdom novels (although Fever Crumb comes a close second.) Much like Bria, I identified with Lyrael to an extent, but what really pushes her into crush territory for me is how much I admired her for her attitude. Girl faces demons, learns magic through a crash course to fix her mistakes, and goes around exploring by herself. Badass. Also, her way of handling unwanted male attention rang a little too close to home. I FEEL YOUR PAIN, LUV!

The Mystery

Holly Hogan from “Solace of the Road” by Siobhan Dowd. I feel like I’ve waxed poetic enough about this book (so why aren’t y’all reading it yet?) but Holly is the kind of friend that is always a little bit of a mystery to you. Not a queen like Alona, not a frenemy like Emily, but a kind of quiet presence that unexpectedly swallows you whole. It’s complicated. You need to read the book.

The Underdog

Moaning Myrtle from Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. Betcha didn’t see that coming!

Bit of a surprise to me as well, but the more I thought about it, the more it fit. She moans and complains and cries, then makes pervy remarks about cute boys, but personally, I like someone who keeps it real. Being a ghost, Myrtle is out of fucks to give, and don’t we always have a friend like that? Even if they sometimes overstep their boundaries, we can’t imagine how life would be without them. They’re the ones who give the best surprises. (See also: Neville Longbottom.)

So that’s my ten (eleven) top fictional girlfriends, and because I want more people to celebrate ladies and friendship, I’m tagging Whitley Birks, Zoe Marriott and Katie Babs, because they’re awesome and I’m nosy and want to see who they pick. If you can’t find a perfect fit for all the categories, you don’t have to, but maybe at least three?

And everyone else who wants to participate, of course.


Rock on, #topfictionalgirlfriends! 

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