Oh, the Books! Bookish Guides: Strong Female Friendships

Oh, the Books! Bookish Guide

Oh, the Books! Bookish Guides

Oh, the Books! Bookish Guides is a monthly recommendation feature in which we share books we love that fit a certain hard-to-find category. If you are having trouble finding a book that contains a certain feature and you want our help, send use the suggestion box on our Bookish Guides page and we may feature it on a future post!

Oh the Books, Bookish Guides, Strong Female Friendships

Since this is the Oh, the Books! Grand Opening month, we thought it would be fitting to choose a topic that relates in some way. Our friendship with each other is very important to the success of our group blog, and therefore we decided to look for strong female friendships in books we have read to recommend. We hope you enjoy!

Our Recommendations

Asti recommends...

I have to admit, I actually had a hard time coming up with recommendations for our first Bookish Guide! I feel like most of the books I read may have female friendships, but they aren’t actually there for anything else than allowing the MC to talk about her feelings for a boy. So disappointing. But hey, I did manage to think of two…

The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants, Strong Female Friendships

The first one I settled on was the one that always come to mind when I think of female friendships: The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants by Ann Brashares. It’s been so long since I’ve read this series, and yet I still remember how amazing the relationship between these girls was. They each had their own distinct personalities and were sometimes separated by large distances, and yet that didn’t stop them from being friends. I mean, really, it makes me want to send a pair of pants or something to Kelley and Leanne just thinking about it!

Golden by Jessi KirbyThe second book I chose was Golden by Jessi Kirby.  I really enjoyed this book when I read it last year and that’s partially due to the great friendship between the MC Parker and her best friend Kat. Unlike other YA stories where the best friend sort of disappears or only stays around for fluffy conversations about boys, Kat was always there for Parker. It was nice to see a MC have that female support system to help them get through their problems, whether bo-related or not. It made the whole story better.[/stextbox]

[stextbox id=”leanne” caption=”Leanne Recommends…”]Cinder by Marissa MeyerI think we’ve all read and loved Cinder by now. But since I was spouting ideas out like crazy when we thought of the topic, I nabbed Cinder first! YOINK. ;) Cinder and Iko may be two of the most unusual beings to pick for a female friendship, seeing as how one is a cyborg and one is an android. But Iko goes way beyond her supposed limiatations, using her rich personality to support Cinder in every way she is needed. The two have been together ever since Cinder brought Iko back to life from a heap of junk parts, and quickly became the closest of friends. I love how they both have their quirks that make them odd in society’s eyes, but they couldn’t be a better match for each other.

Daughter of Smoke & BoneKarou and Zuzana are totally girls I want in my own circle of friendship. Not only are they both artsy and clever, but they are *fiercely* loyal to each other. Their friendship is strong enough to span across two worlds, and also helps provide a delicate balance between magic and normalcy – something each of them yearns for.


Kelley recommends...

I wanted to choose examples from books that neither Asti nor Leanne had read, so I went with these two, and I think they’re both pretty shining examples — although quite different overall — of my preferred  female friendship type.

Prophecy of the Sisters by Michelle ZinkProbably my favorite example of female companionship in YA is in the Prophecy of the Sisters series by Michelle Zink. The series is about a set of twins, Lia and Alice, who have basically been estranged and at odds with one another their entire lives — definitely not your typical twins story. But the series focuses on Lia, and one of the things I love about it is that all throughout these three books, she forges strong, deep friendships with three other girls. She meets each one separately, under different circumstances, but the bonds that these girls form really just captured my heart.

Throne of Glass, Sarah J MaasNext, let’s talk about Celaena and Nehemia from the Throne of Glass series. What I love about their friendship is that it seems to be a kind of refuge for both of them. Each of these girls is firmly planted in a world and role that requires a lot of things from them and doesn’t allow them to truly enjoy or express themselves most of the time. But when they’re together, they share a special bond; they can just be girly, they can play games with the dog, they can go shopping for fancy dresses and talk about guys and just relax. They trust each other implicitly, and it speaks volumes about both of them and their relationship.

I almost added Rose and Lissa from Vampire Academy to this list, because I like the way they so fiercely defend, protect, and take care of each others. But then I remembered how stupid both of them were, and the inconsiderate decisions they made in regards to each other (especially Rose), and got so annoyed that I changed my mid about the whole thing.


Your Recommendations

Of course, we didn’t want to just limit our bookish guide to only books that we have read! We asked for your recommendations on the Oh, the Books! Twitter and here is what you said:

Some of you also suggested books we included in our recommendations above.

Recommendations from Around the Blogosphere

We’ve also found some great discussions and recommendations of strong female friendships in YA from other bloggers:

What Do You Think?

Do you like our new feature? Are there any books featuring strong friendships that you think we missed? Let us know in the comment section!

UPDATE: We got so many wonderful recommendations in the comments (thank you all so much!), that we decided to create a list for this on Goodreads! That way it will be easier to see all of the books together and find more information about them. Check out our Goodreads list and feel free to vote and/or add more!

Read 62 comments

  1. I loooove this feature! OMG YES. Its brilliant. AND CINDER AND IKO. Yes yes yes…Iko is still my favourite character of all in that series (she is a scream in Cress, right?!) And Code Name Verity…ouch, thanks for bringing that up, I’m just going to go bawl now because that was the best book and so unfair and really really murdered me for days because….Julie and Maddie. NOOOOOO. They made such a sensational team. *sobs grossly*

  2. I do like this feature! I’m just sad that I didn’t see this question on Twitter! I would have definitely mentioned Code Name Verity, which of course got mentioned anyway.

    Also, Kelley’s rant about the Vampire Academy characters made me chuckle even though I haven’t read the book. I just don’t care for characters that act stupid all the time!

    Maybe a future topic for this feature can be platonic boy-girl friendships in books?

    • Aww, sorry you didn’t see the tweet, but at least Code Name Verity was included on our list! I really wish that the friendship between Rose and Lissa in Vampire Academy had been one that I could rave about, because it definitely had potential. Maybe it gets better in the later books!

      Thanks for the suggestion, too! I think that might already be on our list (we spent a bit of time debating on exactly what kind of friendships we wanted to highlight in this post), but I’ll double-check to be sure!

    • I think platonic boy-girl friendships *is* already on our list, because we were going nuts figuring out which types of friendships we’ll eventually feature. Your vote will move it up higher on the list, though! I had such a hard time thinking of even a few that would fit into that category, especially for YA. It seems like everyone’s trying to get romance in somewhere, even if it’s one-sided.

  3. Cinder and Iko are the best! I feel so ashamed I couldn’t think of more examples lol *shakes head*. All the female friendships I could think of always had drama because of a guy, so they didn’t fit the bill. Clearly I need to branch out more!

    Totally agree about Celaena and Nehemia (I don’t think I’d read that yet, when you asked the question. So that’s my excuse for not mentioning it :P). Their friendship is definitely a refuge; a way of both of them to escape and be comforted. They don’t have to be on guard around each other and, quite literally, have their own language. it was great to see.

    PLUS they were both strong and independent. A lot of the times in female friendships, one is always portrayed as really outgoing and the other kind of shy and timid. I was happy that Throne of Glass showed two strong women could be friends and one needn’t eclipse the other!

    • Yeah, I think that is a big reason why we wanted to choose this theme — because it’s surprisingly rare to find GOOD female friendships in YA books! You make SUCH a great point about Celaena and Nehemia both being strong and independent. You’re right, because usually it seems like there’s one friend who is more dominant, or who’s the “leader” but with those two it seems very well-balanced!

    • Cinder and Iko are totally the best! And don’t feel bad, Allie. We had a tough time coming up with more than a couple each as well (and all of us had at least one or two in common). You’re right, almost all the books I’ve read involve some type of love interest muddying up the friendships! I wonder if that’s something to be said about YA in general, or just the books I’ve been picking. Hmm.

  4. I love this idea! And especially this topic–not enough female friendships in YA books! You know, I would have never thought of Cinder, but it’s definitely there. I didn’t realize Golden had such a friendship–might have to bump it up the TBR for that.

    • You know, I had considering Golden when thinking of books to add to this list, but I guess my recollection of it wasn’t strong enough. I do recall their friendship being a pretty good one, but I feel like there was something I didn’t like about it and now I can’t remember what!

    • I was really surprised with how hard it was to come up with even this many book recs for strong female friendships. I mean, most of these books are written by women. Most of them have female protagonists, and almost all of them involve other people in addition to the protagonist. So where are all the book girl friends?

    • I had a hard time coming up with recommendations for this one. Golden only popped up in my mind because in my notes from reading it I had mentioned the friendship element. Then I went onto Goodreads to see if others noted it, and they did, so I realized it wasn’t all in my head! It doesn’t play as central of a role to the story as others do, but I still appreciated their friendship in Golden more than other stories.

  5. Because all I really do is talk about Pratchett anymore I have to suggest Granny and Nanny, a female friendship that has lasted generations for the two old witches. I don’t know if it counts as much because they are cousins and therefore family, but I didn’t see Cat and Bea from Kate Elliot’s Spiritwalker trilogy on the list either.

    • I think it definitely still counts even if they’re family — why not? It seems so rare to see strong bonds between two female characters, so I don’t think it matters if they’re cousins or aren’t related at all. I haven’t read either of the series you mentioned (I know, I STILL need to get to Pratchett!), but they’re on my radar. Thanks!

  6. Love this feature! I definitely agree about Cinder and Iko and I’ll have to check some of the other books that I haven’t read yet.

    I agree with Nathan, Granny Weatherwax and Nanny Ogg have an awesome friendship. But the book of Pratchett’s with the best female friendship is Monstrous Regiment, where friendship is one of the main themes. I hadn’t thought about it this way but the friendship between Polly and (spoiler) is one of my favourite parts of the books, it’s so satisfying and the girls are always there for each other.

    Also off the top of my head Isabella and Natalie in The Tropic of Serpents, Sophie and Jenna in Hex Hall, and Sofia and Doña Vorchenza in The Lies of Locke Lamora (though the last one is maybe more like mentor/protégée).

    • Oh my gosh — so many great-sounding recommendations and I haven’t read ONE of them! This makes me feel like a loser for being so out of the loop (especially re: Pratchett), but it also means I now have a bunch more books to add to my wishlist! :D Thanks, Ren!

    • Oooh friendship as a main theme is pretty rare itself in books, no matter the type. There’s usually something else going on and friendships happen to form (or get messed up by love interests), so I’m very interested in checking out Monstrous Regiment! I’ll have to look up the rest of your recs as well. Geez this post isn’t helping my TBR problem any. :)

  7. The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants is a series I thought about checking out countless times but for some reason never did… Maybe one day… Or I’ll just watch the movie (there is a movie, right?)
    And seeing Throne of Glass on the list has reminded me The Selection (don’t ask me why) and the female friendships in it. Okay so the girls all compete for the same guy BUT the main character, America, manages to befriend one of the girls and their friendship is actually on the strong side, imo ;D
    And Gone!! Yes! Everyone should read that series.

    • I haven’t read The Selection, but it’s nice to know that at least one good friendship forms among the girls who are all essentially against one another! I haven’t read Gone, either, but it’s on my list. (Also, I’m pretty sure there’s a Traveling Pants movie… I haven’t seen/read it either, but hopefully Asti can lend us some more insight.)

    • There is a Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants movie. America Ferrera is in it, too, which makes me almost want to watch it, but I’m thinking it might be a tad too chick flick for me. :) I’m really wondering how the heck they found some pair of jeans that fits four different girls perfectly because none of those girls look to be the same body type. >_> Maybe they’re magic?! I guess I should read the book and find out.

    • I read The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants when I was like… twelve. So it’s been a while. But I do remember really wishing I had friendships like that. I always find it sad how when you’re younger it seems like everyone will be best friends forever and then they’re not. So yeah, the book was like my friendship dream as a kid (though they still had their problems).

      Of course, now it’s a bit too contempt for me since I don’t read those things.

      And yay The Selection! I got a copy for Christmas but haven’t been able to read it yet. Otherwise I probably could’ve recommended it :P Will have to wait until after LGBT April!

  8. This is an awesome feature, and I love the theme! :) As for my recommendation, I would probably go with Mia Marshall’s Elements series because the two main ladies: Aidan and Sera. They’re both extremely kickass, they have a long friendship, they have snarky banter, but they show their love through “you hurt her, bad dude, and I will destroy you” kind of things. :D

    • YAY, so glad you like the feature and this month’s theme! :D I’m happy to hear so many people recommending the Elements series. I hadn’t really known much about it, but now that I know about Aidan and Sera, I’m much more intrigued. Their friendship sounds like something I would really enjoy! :D

  9. Somehow, the only ones I’ve actually read of those 12 are CNV, GONE and DOSAB,but would definitely agree with all three – Zuzana is one of my favourite ever characters and I love the friendship between her and Karou!

    Others I’d go for – (in addition to Cat/Bea in Spiritwalker and Granny/Nanny in Discworld, as mentioned in a comment above!) – the quartets in Sophia Bennett’s You Don’t Know Me, Bridget Tyler’s Drummer Girl, Ally Carter’s Gallagher Girls series, and Candy Harper’s Have A Little Faith, all of which have their problems but clearly really care for each other. Stella and Ruby in Stephanie Guerra’s Torn, one of the most underrated books of the last few years. Gemma and Sam in My Big Fat Teen Crisis by Jenny Smith, whose friendship survives a move to the Outer Hebrides for Gemma. The trio in Ellen Richardson’s Flip-Flop Club. Maggie and Roux in Robin Benway’s Spy Society. Megan and Grace in A Room Full of Chocolate by Jane Elson. Elise and her new friends, especially Vicky, in This Song Will Save Your Life. (I can’t believe I missed this question when you originally asked it on Twitter!)

    • Yeah, it was definitely a weird experience trying to come up with books for this topic! There are so many females in YA I really had a hard time believing we had such a short list to contribute. We’ve gotten lots more recommendations thanks to comments, and recommending hard-to-find topics is what this whole series is about, but… it’s a little shameful, isn’t it? Not that there’s anything wrong with having love interests and other types of friendships, but this is one type I’d love to see more of!

  10. Maddie and Verity in Code Name Verity…yes! Their friendship is amazing! <3 If I may, I'd also like to add Katniss/Rue (The Hunger Games) and Christina/Tris (Divergent) as well.

    Thanks for sharing! This is a really interesting post! <3

    • Awww such great additions to the list, and I can’t believe we hadn’t thought of those! You’re right, Katniss and Rue were so great. And Christina/Tris is another good friendship, even though there was some time where they weren’t exactly friends (although that probably isn’t uncommon — reminds me of the BFFs in Lauren Miller’s Parallel, too!).

    • Oh gosh I almost couldn’t remember who would have qualified for this topic in The Hunger Games! How sad of me. >_< I suppose I've just read too many books between those and now, I almost forgot about sweet little Rue. I did love their friendship, even though for the first part of it I was waiting to be tricked, thinking it was a trap. :D

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  12. Brilliant idea! I love books that have good friendships in them, between guys or girls. So often it feels like every relationship has to be romantic or authors won’t really develop the relationships at all. It really is too bad there aren’t more books with strong friendships!

  13. This is a great feature! It’s kind of sad that I can’t think of a lot of examples off-hand. But I agree with Cinder and Daughter of Smoke and Bone. Both of those friendships made me smile.

  14. I’m not sure I agree with Cinder and Iko; I found all the characters in that book to be a little flat, so it was difficult for me to view any of the relationships as deep or meaningful.

    I totally agree with Karou and Zuzana, though. That was a really well-developed friendship. It seems that sometimes, especially in the paranormal genre, the “best friend” character isn’t developed that well because she (or he) is just a placeholder. Zuzana was a great character in her own right, so this friendship really worked well.

    • Oh my gosh, you’re breaking my heart with all that talk about flat characters in Cinder! One of the things I love most about that series is how well Meyer has developed each character and shows them off! (Have you read Scarlet and/or Cress?)

      It’s so true — especially in non-contemporary books, it seems — that the best friend isn’t all that significant! Laini Taylor definitely did this theme justice with Zuzana. :)

    • Hm I dunno. While the Lunar Chronicles books aren’t my favorites (don’t hit me, Kelley) I do like them, especially the various friendship aspects of them. I suppose I could see how on the surface Meyer’s characters come off as not-so-complex, because the books are a very easy read, but once looked at a little closer they do reveal a more complexity. Ordinary humans, I think, are portrayed very realistically – they dislike and want to destroy anything they don’t fully understand. I love that there’s something deeper to Iko that was brought forth by the very fact that she is artificial, made of plastics and metals and electronics. She has this full personality and emotions that make her seem completely human, when technically she’s the least human of any character in that series. On the same wavelength, Cinder is hated, feared, and ridiculed because she is seen as less than human. Yet she has compassion and bravery far beyond most “normal” humans, despite her non-human parts (and despite her heritage). The two of them would do anything to help the other out, which I’m sure has only been strengthened by the fact that for years they have been each other’s sole, nonjudgmental, companion.

      I completely agree with the underdeveloped best friend syndrome, and I’m so glad Taylor made Karou and Zuzana’s friendship so lively. It was strange, in a way, seeing this absolutely realistic relationship between them in the midst of angels and chimera and MAGIC. Pretty wonderful.

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  16. What an awesome post! I’ve had Golden on my TBR for a while now, urgh, just need to get to it. I think the one that caught my eye here that I *haven’t* read is Prophecy of the Sisters — the summary is really intriguing! :)

    • Yaaaaay, so glad you liked it, Tory! Golden is a great book, and that’s coming from a girl who hardly EVER reads contemporary. ;) Oh my gosh, Prophecy of the Sisters is such a great series. It’s REALLY different, and I just fell in love with it. The voice, the setting, the eeriness of the situation… so great! Definitely highly recommended from me!

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  20. Super late to this post but I love this feature and all the recs and links to other posts and the GR list! I’m bookmarking it so I can look deeper later! I love books with strong female friendships! Can’t wait to see what else you all do!

    • Haha yes! This post originally just started with our own recommendations, but we definitely expanded it to a huge collection of resources by asking for recs on Twitter, linking to other posts we thought would relate, and creating a Goodreads list for it! If we continue to do these with each topic we come up with, there will hopefully be something for everyone!

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  22. Zuzana and Karou are it for me. They both have qualities (mostly their humor) from my best friend and I. Iko is amazing! I still find myself laughing at her fascination for Prince Kai in the beginning of Cinder. So adorable.

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