I’m not sure who else has observed this, but I’m going to say it anyway.
Why, in most young-adult fiction, does the protagonist have a best friend who is the opposite gender?
The notion of this has been bothering me for a while and I’d like to unpack potential reasons ‘why’ this is. I’m always interested how in YA fiction, the storyline never fails to feature a gang; this gang usually comprises a nerd, an “afraid of nothing” girl (who likes the ‘cool’ boy) and the ‘cool’ boy (who likes the girl). This is the standard narratological formula nowadays and it appears to be working. Millions of young people are associating these ‘groups’ as the norm and celebrating them as diverse, inclusive and PC.
There is plenty of proof for my argument… one look no further than the recent, Goosebumps: Horrorland film, featuring Jack Black as the mysterious R.L. Stine. Classically, we see a smart, strong female (who likes the male protagonist), a slightly weaker male protagonist (who likes the strong female) and a nerdy friend. Of course, if there had been a fully male cast, feminists would have objected and likewise if the cast was fully female.
Let’s move on.
The Hunger Games: Katniss is the ever-strong woman, who, surprise surprise, is best friends with a male. It seems she gets on very well with men, because rarely is another woman given the same companionship Katniss gives Gale, Peeta and Finnick.
Divergent: Tris? The books start promisingly; no immediate friends of either gender, just neutrality to all. Spoke too soon! Hello Tris and Tobias.
Most John Green Books: Need I discuss Paper Towns, Looking for Alaska, etc.? I didn’t think so.
13 Reasons Why: All I needed to see was the trailer. It told me a lot.
Please don’t think I’m against male/female friendships. I’m not. I’m all for it. What I am against is the utilisation of such so that “balance” is achieved in order to extend a novel’s marketing criteria. The fact is, for many YA, their reality comprises simply male friends (or female). It is so rare to have it all (every … single …. different … one …). If you do, good for you. All I hope is that through my writing (and yours) we can create a more realistic setting with greater characters, without falling prey to the dominant, YA paradigm.