I Want More Platonic Relationships in YA (a discussion, ft. book recs!!)

hello everyone and welcome back! how are you all doing? low-key proud of myself that i’ve managed to post consistently on a schedule for three posts in a row. i have returned, this time with my first discussion post in literal years. discussions are incredibly hard for me to write for whatever reason—i just can’t seem to think of any original ideas?? but then i came back from my hiatus, threw my concerns about originality into the trash, and decided to write a post about a topic that’s already been discussed at length in the bookish community 😌 my love for platonic relationships in fiction is something i’ve really wanted to talk about here and this is my chance!!

obviously, bear in mind that all of my points are based on my personal experiences and you are more than welcome to disagree respectfully! can’t wait to hear your thoughts 💖

after a months-long reading slump, i have come to the conclusion that i’m starting to grow out of romance novels.

okay, that statement is slightly misleading in that it makes me sound like someone whose taste isn’t changing every other day of the week and someone who definitely knows what she’s doing. unfortunately, that is a big fat lie, but there is an element of truth to it.

if you know anything about me, it’s that i love love. i gobble up enemies-to-lovers. swoon over friends-with-something-more. frequently scream into the void because of angry love confessions. clutch my fluttering heart at every bantering exchange and instance of drawn-out eye contact.

but recently, romance (at least the traditional kind) doesn’t make me as excited as it used to. sometimes, i catch myself thinking wow, this is very overdramatic or not this again when i read the blurb of a ya romance or when a character of the opposite gender as the narrator walks into the room and everything goes into slow-motion.

in a way, it completely baffles me. because what i used to love about romance (and what i suspect many others do as well) was its somehow chaotic predictability. there’s a meet-cute, banter, flirting, the passionate kiss, angst over self-esteem issues, recklessness, a third-act breakup, and an eventual happily-ever-after. the way romance works is that you put all of that and more into a blender and the product is something sweet, something surprising, but something that also feels like home. and i loved that.

i still love it. but the sparkling edge just isn’t there for a lot of the romance-focused ya books i’m encountering these days. and what that’s made me realize is just how little media exposure i get to relationships that aren’t romantic in nature. if i think about it, i can probably count less than a dozen friendships i’ve read about in ya that serve a function other than to emphasize the main romance.

to postulate on why, the ya industry as a whole seems to think that adolescence is all about falling head over heels in love, sex, romantic angst, and meeting the love of your life. it’s strange for me to see, because it’s the opposite according to my experience. adolescence for me (and probably other teens as well) is a period where i know to be wary of getting too invested in any romantic relationships, precisely because everyone tells us that nothing lasts beyond high school. and as a result, we learn to prioritize relationships that have a higher chance of surviving teenagedom, and for me, that’s led to a focus on friendships—fictional and otherwise.

what i’m trying to say is that the time of maturation known as adolescence looks different for everyone, especially in terms of which relationships are prioritized, and i think ya should reflect that. for example, growing up in my book means realizing that love isn’t always a tidal wave or something you need to go hunting for. oftentimes, it’s right in front of your face, dependable and sturdy. i think ms. taylor puts it much more beautifully than i ever could: “i once believed love would be burning red / but it’s golden / like daylight, like daylight.”

i think that’s why i’m beginning to turn away from the red-hot recklessness of traditional romance-oriented books and lean toward books focusing on friendships and other manifestations of love. family. siblings. different types of romance—stories about second chances, marriages in crisis, making each other feel whole. stories that make me believe in love bringing peace, not war.

on that overly poetic note, you’ve arrived at the second half of this post—recommendations! i’m not guaranteeing that these books don’t contain that traditional romance element, but all of them definitely have a more focused spotlight on the non-romantic relationship in question. here goes!!

a list of cages by robin roe

the friendship between adam and julian breaks my heart in the best way possible. the way these two boys always turn to each other for support above anyone else in the face of so much cruelty 🥹 there are so many important messages about kindness and hope in this book and all of them are amplified hundredfold by adam and julian’s relationship.

the mysterious benedict society by trenton lee stewart

reynie, kate, sticky, and constance—my childhood heroes 💖 there’s a reason this squad is such a classic. they have moments of levity and sass, but would also trust each with their lives. and did i mention that they work SO well together as a team? reynie’s wits, kate’s boldness, sticky’s genius, and constance’s self-will are just a perfect combination. (also, this cover >>>> the new one.)

letters to the lost & more than we can tell by brigid kemmerer

these books are definitely both romance novels, but that doesn’t stop me from saying that declan and rev’s friendship watered my crops, cleared my skin, gave me life. just two supportive besties supporting each other through the trauma of their respective childhoods. the first book is from declan’s pov and the second from rev’s, so we get to experience their friendship from both sides, which is *chef’s kiss*

six of crows by leigh bardugo

everyone knows about the ships in six of crows, but can we just talk about all the platonic love oozing through the pages? what makes this duology so outstanding is that every main character has a characterizable, unique relationship with each of the other five crows. nina and inej: two queens appreciating each other? love to see it. inej and jesper: “this action will have no echo”—need i say more? wylan and kaz: their conversation in crooked kingdom about shame did something to my heart. kaz and matthias: the contrast between kaz, who prides himself on being his own deity, and matthias, who holds onto his beliefs despite everything, is immaculate. i could write a whole essay about the symbolism of matthias’s nickname for kaz, demon, evolving from genuine hatred to affectionate respect.

i’ll stop myself here before this gets any longer than it already is 😄

when we were infinite by kelly loy gilbert

i’ll be honest, this book wasn’t really for me, but as more time passes, i’ve begun to appreciate all of its beautiful quotes, especially about friendship. there’s a huge focus on beth’s flawed love for her group of friends, as well as her mom, and how these relationships tie into her journey of self-acceptance, which i feel like is a message a lot of us need to hear.

my brilliant friend by elena ferrante

another excuse to rave about this book hehe. lenù and lila’s friendship is fiercely competitive, perhaps even a bit unhealthy. half the time, they’re exacerbating each other’s insecurities and self-doubts. but the other half of the time, they feel genuine admiration for each other. the book is told in lenù’s perspective, so we know all too well how in awe of lila she is—her courage, her intelligence, and her brashness. it’s not as obvious for lila, but as the readers we can tell that she marvels at lenù’s steadfastness and wit, even though it hurts her pride to admit it. this relationship is just absolutely gold characterization-wise.

the serpent king by jeff zentner

dill, travis, and lydia have each other’s backs. each one of them is going through different trials and tributions in their last year of high school, including but not limited to family scandals, existential crises, and unsupportive parents. but they’ve got each other. their tight-knit relationship melted my heart and also broke it, especially with the development that occurs towards the end of the book.

the kite runner by khaled hosseini

this book is not for the weak of heart. i’ve never quite recovered from the platonic angst and pining between amir and hassan, not to mention the utter heartbreak of the events that tear them apart and bring them together again, although it’s not in the way you’d expect. (definitely be sure to check the content warnings if you think you’ll need them!)

in an absent dream by seanan mcguire

it’s been so, so long since i read this book, but i still remember how disturbed i was after finishing it. lundy has never fit in, so when she discovers a passageway to the goblin market and meets moon, her first real friend, she’s more than willing to stay in this new fantasy. but soon, as she begins to foster her relationship with her sister diana in the real world, she finds herself being pulled in two different directions by the two people she loves most—with dangerous consequences (dun dun dun)…

luck of the titanic by stacey lee

valora and jamie had such a precious sibling bond, it made me want to cry. they don’t see eye-to-eye all the time—actually, most of the time—and they’re both incredibly headstrong, but in the end, they’re there for each other when it matters. they protect each other and give them the emotional support to follow their dreams.

the cost of knowing by brittany morris

alex and isaiah have my whole heart 😭✋ these two are brothers who have drifted away in the wake of their parents’ deaths. when alex stumbles upon a vision of the future in which isaiah meets a tragic end, he resolves at first to make the most of their remaining time together, but his goal changes as their bond is rekindled—to stop the tragedy from ever occurring. this book did terrible, terrible things to my heart and i’m still not quite whole after that ending.

this place is still beautiful by xixi tian

i’m just about to start this book as of writing this, and i am so so so hyped. it’s about how two sisters and their family deal with the fallout after they’re targeted for a racist hate crime and the family dynamics are apparently on. point. i’m especially excited because i’ve rarely read about complicated sibling relationships in the context of anti-asian racism, which is a very niche topic that nonetheless hits hard for probably much of the community.

now, just to clarify, this doesn’t mean that i’m never going to read romance again and obviously i’m not targeting anyone whose favorite genre is romance. i still love love, and like i said in the beginning, my taste changes every other day. this was just a post to discuss some general trends in ya that i’ve noticed and what i think.

and that’s it for today! tell me know what you think about this topic in the comments below 🤗 have you ever grown out of a genre before? do you have a preference between reading about platonic or romantic relationships? any book recs featuring complicated friendships or family relationships? (please 🥺)

until then, happy reading and see you next time!! ❤️

22 thoughts on “I Want More Platonic Relationships in YA (a discussion, ft. book recs!!)

  1. YES! As much as I love romance in books, I feel like there needs to be more that just focus on friendships. To me, friendships are much more valuable than one romantic relationship with another person. Also I’m glad to see The Serpent King on this list – it’s been in my Nook digital library for a few years now 😅😂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. ahh i 100% agree!! friendships and romance have very different impacts on a person’s life and we definitely need books to explore *both* of them in depth. and yess the serpent king is such an underrated gem! hope you enjoy when you get around to it hehe!! 😆❤️

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Well, actually I can mention two of my WIPS for this——-both having incredible friendships and family relationships

    Tale of the Cattail Forest- my main WIP: it is basically an enemies to friends book

    1. Sparkle and Misty- Best Friends
    2. Felipe and Darcy- Best Friends
    3. Marge and Sarge- Cousins, but a complicated relationship
    4. Aries and Darcy- Uncle and Nephew
    5. Effa and Rudy- identical twins
    6. If I say the friendships that get created, that would mean (spoilers)

    Greatest Discovery- my 3rd WIP

    Aurora and Jasmine are the main characters, and fraternal twins. Born to an artsy and Disney-loving family. Have one of the best sibling relationships—-got even stronger after their parents died in a car crash on a snowy day. Jasmine is the more mature and protective twin (got more fiercely protective after their parents died) and a lot more into doing crafts especially designing and making clothes for dolls (a favorite activity the girls did with their parents). Aurora is the more innocent, curious, and stubborn twin, and more into playing with dolls and princesses- struggles more with the loss of her parents

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Wonderful post, Abby ❤️ I love platonic relationships and this is something we see so disappointingly little in books – and other media. Thank you so much for those recommendations! I really enjoyed the relationship in Luck Of the Titanic ✨️

    Liked by 1 person

    1. thank you so much stephen!! 💕 i completely agree, we really need more coverage of platonic relationships everywhere. and no problem, it’s my pleasure 🥰 and yess val and jamie in luck of the titanic were so sweet to read about!!

      Like

  4. Damn abby, so much for not writing discussion posts! We need more of these please, this was on point wow!
    I’ve been feeling the same way about romance for a long time now. I had the “i love romance and angsty moments in books” phase from the age of 11-14 🙂. Which is a lot. I still loved romance at 15 but i don’t know, it’s just kind of becoming less. I guess the more content you consume, the less it starts to make u feel excited. It was like i had read so many different kinds of romance that nothing seemed new anymore.
    But that’s not to say i don’t like romance either. There are still certain books that make me go craaaazyyyyyy at an amazing love interest. Idk if you’ve read cinder or not but i love the romances there 🥺.
    I love the kite runner 😭😭. It’s such an amazing book, feels unbeatable to me. And six of crows omg.
    This blog was so relatable! The prioritizing relationships that will last part-i feel ya!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. omg nehal thank you so much!! you’re the sweetest 🥹❤️ i’m so glad to hear i’m not alone in my experience! i completely relate to everything you said here. it’s not like i hate romance, but i definitely feel like the obsession is dying down as i get older and it’s getting replaced by a need for something mellower. and omg have i read cinder?! the lunar chronicles is one of my fave series of all time 😍 the romances in that series >>>

      the kite runner 😭 such a heartbreaker. still not over it after all these years. and of course six of crows 🥺

      thank you so much nehal!! i’m so happy to know that i’m not alone in all these meditations haha 😆

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Love this post! I am the same, even though I love a good old romance (though I actually prefer romance as a side story, not the main), there are just too few books with a focus on friendships and family. I’d recommend Radio Silence and Loveless by Alice Oseman, both of them focus on friendships. I wish more YA contemporaries showed that there are more kinds of love!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. thanks so much morgan!! ❤️ i completely agree, romantic subplots with platonic relationships at the forefront are always superior and there are way too few of them, especially in the ya contemporary genre. and thank you so much for the recs! 😍

      Liked by 1 person

  6. ABBY i love this post so much?? i was literally nodding along as soon as i read the title 🥰 i also love romance and ya romance and everything to do with romance but i adore a good platonic bond too and so much of the time we don’t get that!!! i wish we had more platonic relationships in ya too – thank you for all the recommendations i’m definitely checking them out soon ❤️ the mysterious benedict society was literally my childhood too hahaha i loved it SO much!! that and the platonic friendship’s in enid blyton books (mallory towers & the five find-outers especially) made me fall in loveeee 💗

    Liked by 1 person

    1. ahh thank you so much ahaana!! 💗 i 100% agree, romance is amazing but we absolutely need relationships that don’t focus on the romantic kind of love, especially in ya! yayyy let me know if or when you get to pick up one of these books—can’t wait to see what you think 🤩 omg yes the mysterious benedict society owned my ten-year-old heart. ooh thank you so much for the recs! i’ve never tried an enid blyton book but i think i might need to change that very soon 🙃

      Liked by 1 person

  7. I absolutely loved this post, Abby! (In fact, I sneakily read it right when you posted it but had so much to say that I thought I might as well wait until summer break started so that I could give you a proper response 😁 So here I am!)

    Anyway, I’m totally with you! I’ve always enjoyed books with a good romantic subplot, but even as a teenager, it really annoyed me that almost none of the YA novels I was reading also focused on friendships. Like, seriously, didn’t any of these authors have friends that had more depth to them than just being there for comic relief or trying to set them up with a boyfriend??

    So yeah, I truly appreciate your list of recommendations! Especially since I haven’t read the majority of them yet 🤗 And as for book recs that feature friendships, some of my favorites that I can think of at the top of my head are: The Unexpected Everything by Morgan Matson, The How and the Why by Cynthia Hand, The Interestings by Meg Wollitzer, or Chomp by Carl Hiaasen…

    Anyway, thanks so much for this post! I’m definitely keeping my eyes peeled for more of your discussions! 💙

    Like

  8. Great post, Abby. While I haven’t yet “tired” of the romance aspect, I can definitely see where you’re coming from. Now that I think about it, I don’t remember reading a ton of YA-marketed romances when I was 12-18. My favorite books/series actually featured friendships more than any romance that cropped up. Those included the Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants books and a series of YA Star Wars books that revolved around the adventures of Han and Leia’s kids at Luke’s Jedi Academy (called Young Jedi Knights from the 1990s…they’re probably not considered canon anymore haha).

    Like

  9. YES YES YES!! I’m not a huge fan of romance so I’m probably biased but I really want more platonic friendships – both opposite sex and same sex (mostly boy friendships because I don’t really see them around for some reason? Or maybe I’m looking in the wrong places). It’s probably why I prefer MG > YA right now because YA almost always has a romance whereas MG focuses more on friendships.

    Like

  10. Okay this is all straight up facts and I LOVE THAT. Literally anytime that I read a book that has romance in it where they realize that they love the love interest within two days or something like that, it makes me so frustrated. And I also feel like in a lot of books, it isn’t healthy. I know for me when I entered my first IRL relationship, it was a lot like how I read about in books, but guess what? It fell flat because there was nothing of substance to the relationship. Romance in books, even if they weren’t the main topic, definitely skewed how I thought about young relationships. Yet friendships? They are the most wholesome, and often realistic, relationships displayed in novels.

    Ahem. All that to say, I love this!!! I saw this in a previous comment, but I’m really liking mg books. It’s not about getting caught up in passionate romances or insta-love. There’s familial relationships, friendships, trials of maturing at different rates from your childhood friends, etc. The real stuff of substance in young peoples lives.

    Definitely going to be checking out some of those books that you mentioned!

    Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s