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The Need For Platonic Relationships in YA

Before I get started, I want you to name one platonic relationship in a YA novel. Just one. Not ten, not five, just one. And you can’t Google it, either. It has to be off the top of your head.

It’s hard, isn’t it?

Now try to think of two. Then three. Then four.ย  Keep going higher. You don’t go all that high before you get stuck, right? Now do that again, but with a boy-girl relationship that isn’t romantic or doesn’t turn out romantic. This is even harder.

I’m sure that everyone has a platonic relationship, right? If you don’t have a non-romantic relationship with someone whom you still love, I would be extremely surprised.

YA is getting good about writing about more diverse romances than the supposedly-ugly-girl-falls-in-love-with-the-seemingly-shallow-jock-only-to-find-out-that-she’s-pretty-and-the-jock-is-actually-pretty-deep. BUT. I feels like almost every boy-girl relationship you will find will be a romance. There are plenty of Platonic Male-Male or Female-Female romances, but not enough Male-Female.

It sometimes seems like an author assumes that the only male-female relationships have something romantic at the core. Even a boy and a girl who have been best friends for years will have a secret attraction to each other. Here are some examples of that.

  • Megan and Puck from the Iron Fey series- Megan and Puck have been friends for as long as Megan can remember; long enough that she can’t help but feel a bit betrayed that he’s actually Fey. But naturally, Puck has been in love with her for all those years, and Megan has had enough of a crush (however small it may be) to kiss him without feeling disgusted when Ash leaves.
  • Katniss and Gale from the Hunger Games- Katniss and Gale’s friendship was forged out of their illegal attempt to keep from starving, and they just hit it off and they’ve been best friends ever since. Now, I’ve always had the opinion that Katniss confused best friend love for romantic love, so this one is a bit more one-sided, but still, when Gale announces his long-felt romantic attachment to Katniss, I can’t help but feel a little disgusted at the author.
  • Blue and Gansey from The Raven Boys- Once it became clear that she and Adam weren’t really going to be doing anything other than going on a couple of “dates”, I had hope. Maybe Blue will give Gansey mouth-to-mouth if he gets stung by a bee and her curse will see that as kissing him and ta da, no romantic relationship. But it’s leaning more and more toward Blue and Gansey falling in love, and I find that frustrating. She would have had such a great relationship with him without any romance.
  • Alyssa and Jeb from Splintered- Alyssa and Jeb were so close they were almost brother and sister, but guess what, they’ve been harboring a secret romantic attachment to each other

Now, I still love all these books. They are great, amazing books, but made slightly less amazing and great because they included romantic relationships that didn’t need to happen. There are many more, but these are from popular series.

Here’s the thing. I am friends with boys. I have not fallen in love with any of them, but I love them because they’re my friends. That’s a platonic relationship. And that is what YA is lacking.

What do you think about platonic relationships in YA? Do you think it needs more, or do you like the romance?

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20 thoughts on “The Need For Platonic Relationships in YA

  1. I’m glad you posted this, as this is something that bothers me about a lot of YA books. The stories and characters are great, but does EVERYONE always need to fall in love? I liked your point at the end – in real life guys and girls can be friends without any romantic feelings, so why can’t they be just friends in books, too? I’d also love to see more YA where the main character doesn’t get into a romantic relationship at all, as realistically not every teenager spends all their time boyfriend (or girlfriend) hunting. Rant over. :p

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  2. Ah yes, I totally wish there were more, bUT at the same time I understand why there’s not. I mean, I guess it’s more interesting to read about kids who grow up and then fall in love? It IS kinda sweet. But I would give a whole ice cream cake for some delicious books about boy/girl FRIENDSHIP.

    I guess Jace / Isabelle from The Mortal Instruments are a platonic relationship but they’re practically adopted siblings so IT DOESN’T COUNT SO MUCH. And there are definitely some platonic relationships in Percy Jackson. ALSO SKULDUGGERY PLEASANT now that I think about it. Although Skulduggery is like a million years older than Valkryie too… so yeah.

    Loved this post!

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    1. I think if non-romantic relationships were more common it wouldn’t be as annoying when two best friends fall in love. But they’re not. Every novel has a romance, even when it’s not needed.

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  3. I totally agree with the need to have more male/female platonic relationships in books. Many times when authors create love triangles I feel as if they’ve just ruined a platonic relationship by making it romantic. Men and women can be friends without falling in love or having sex.

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  4. Definitely agree there need to be more platonic relationships in YA. I don’t read a ton in the genre but I did just read Chains, and there was a male-female friendship that didn’t end romantically. Although it IS a series and I haven’t read the second book, so it might go there… but there was no attraction in the first book (although I think the main character was pretty young, ~13 or so, so I guess it could still develop but I hope it doesn’t).

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  5. Harry Potter and Hermione Granger come to mind – but then again, I don’t really think they count, dunno why…can’t think of any other boy / girl friends in popular books and movies that don’t end up in a romantic relationship.

    I myself am working on a science fiction novel series, and the two protagonists are a robot girl and human boy who do not at any point of the series fall in love with each other. While the boy eventually grows up, the girl pretty much stays the same age forever. In most such stories the girl might be upset about not growing up and being unable to ”be with” the boy in a romantic sense, but this isn’t the case for my characters. They’re going to be platonic friends and happy with the way they are. If anything, at the end of the series they’re probably going to be mistaken for Intergenerational Platonic Friends, if anything. Or even older brother / younger sister or dad / daughter. It’s kind of complicated and odd. Bah.

    Have you published any books yourself? I’m kinda curious here.

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    1. Your novel sounds cool! And no, I haven’t published anything. The most I’ve gotten actually in print was a short thing in a small magazine, but I wasn’t paid for it or anything, and it was only like 300 words.

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      1. Well, I do hope you succeed in publishing a novel or whatever you’d like to publish. ๐Ÿ™‚

        Hey, I have a question. If you create a WordPress account, is it possible to disable comments? Like, not allow people to comment on your website? I mean, I love interacting with people through Private Messages and Gmail and stuff but I don’t like the idea of people posting stuff on my blogs after I’m dead. In a hundred years or so I bet plenty of the blogs and Facebook pages will be those of people who have already passed away. Sorry if that sounds a bit morbid. It’s just that some people can be rude when posting stuff online (my younger self included), and I don’t think I’d like anyone to, say, post rude words or such on my blogs long after I’m gone.

        D’you think we could swap emails or something? I haven’t got any friends who are actually dreaming of becoming published authors and I’m too busy taking care of schoolwork and my family to join a writer’s group, so I thought it might be a good idea if I had a writer pen pal to talk to sometimes. And if you ever need a beta reader or something, I’ll be glad to offer help.

        I like your blog and your name, by the way.

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      2. I believe it is…I know you can set it up so comments can’t get added to your site until they go through you: you have to actually approve them.
        And of course! The easiest way to contact me is through the form at the top of my website. I should have a page called “contact me” with a thing to email me. I look forward to hearing from you!

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