When I was in ninth grade, my best friend broke up with me.
You know how there are two ways to pull off a Band-Aid — how you can rip it off fast with a quick jolt of pain that quickly subsides, or you can pull it off super slowly, and unintentionally prolong the agony by trying to be gentle? Well, she tried to be gentle.
We’d been inseparable for years, spending our days whispering in class, our evenings talking on the phone, and our weekends sleeping at each other’s houses. But all of a sudden my phone wasn’t ringing anymore, and when I called her, she always had a reason why she had to rush off. She started turning down invitations to come to my house, and stopped asking me over to hers.
I was confused and hurt. I figured I must have done something wrong – offended her in some way. I started obsessing over our conversations, trying to pinpoint where things went wrong, but I couldn’t figure it out. I kept asking her what was wrong, and she kept insisting everything was fine. I felt clingy and obsessive and embarrassed.
And then came The Breakup. It was a weekend, and she’d canceled plans to go to the movies with me, telling me she was grounded. In an effort to cheer me up, my mother took me to the mall for the afternoon. And that’s where I saw my supposed best friend – hanging out with a group of girls I hardly knew.
She came over later, armed with an article from Seventeen magazine about how friends sometimes grow apart. We don’t have anything in common anymore, she told me. We’re in high school now and I think it’s time we both made new friends.
As I always did, I turned to books to help me through my confusion and heartache. I was hungry for stories about friendships – ones that worked out, and ones that didn’t. I wanted to immerse myself in the lives of other girls and see how they dealt with the ups and downs of friendship. I wanted to cry along with the girls whose friendships fell apart, and cheer for the ones who worked out their issues.
The trouble was, I had difficulty finding novels that featured friendship in the way I craved.
I often think back on this time when I’m asked about the inspiration for my YA debut How It Ends. Because although I wasn’t thinking specifically about this particular friend when writing the novel, I do wonder if I was subconsciously writing the type of story that fourteen-year-old me needed.
Fortunately for teens today, 2016 brings a wealth of novels that feature complicated and nuanced stories about female friendship. Here are some of my top recommendations from among the 2016 YA debuts:
After the Woods by Kim Savage
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Release date: February 23
In After the Woods, Julia risks her own life to save her best friend Liv. It’s a move that results in Julia being abducted for a terrifying 48 hours. One year later, the two friends are dealing with the aftermath of the abduction, with each girl struggling in her own way. When another body is discovered in the woods, Julia begins to piece together what really happened when she was abducted.
Enter Title Here by Rahul Kanakia
Release date: August 2
Reshma is an ultra-competitive anti-hero who’s on a mission to get into Stanford. When a literary agent approaches her about writing a YA novel, Reshma is sure she’s found a way to stand out from the crowd. In order to write about young adults, however, she decides she’ll need to experience things that more typical teenagers do, including making friends.
How It Ends by ME! (Catherine Lo)
Publisher: HMH Books for Young Readers
Release date: June 7
Shy, anxious Jessie would give anything to have her best friend Annie’s beauty and confidence. And Annie thinks Jessie has the perfect life, with her close-knit family and killer grades. They’re BFFs . . . until suddenly they’re not. How It Ends is the story of a friendship from first meeting to breakup, set against a tumultuous sophomore year of bullying, boys, and backstabbing.
I Woke Up Dead At The Mall by Judy Sheehan
Publisher: Delacorte Press
Release date: March 22
Sarah wakes up dead at the Mall of America and learns that the universe sends murdered teens there to learn how to move on with the help of a death coach. There she forms strong friendships in the after-life with girls who she might never have met in her real life.
Mirror in the Sky by Aditi Khorana
Release date: June 21
As Tara’s junior year begins, an alternate Earth, called Terra Nova, is discovered in space. Tara and her friends and family grapple with the idea that there are alternate versions of themselves out there, whose lives may be drastically different due to the choices they’ve made along the way. In the face of this knowledge, the characters begin to re-assess their lives in ways that impact their relationships.
Summer of Sloane by Erin Schneider
Release date: May 3
Sloane McIntyre’s summer vacation in Hawaii provides a much-needed escape when she finds out that her boyfriend and best friend have betrayed her. She tries to embrace the distractions of Hawaii, but finds it difficult to leave the past behind. Sloane must decide whether or not to forgive, and what that forgiveness might look like.
The Distance from A to Z by Natalie Blitt
Publisher: Epic Reads Impulse
Release date: January 12
In The Distance from A to Z, Abby is spending a summer away from home, working on her French-language skills and escaping her family. Primarily a story about the blossoming romance between Abby and Zeke, this multi-layered novel also features a strong female friendship between Abby and her roommate Alice.
The Mystery of Hollow Places by Rebecca Podos
Publisher: Balzer + Bray
Release date: January 26
When seventeen-year-old Imogene’s father disappears, she becomes convinced that he’s gone to find her long-lost mother. She puts the detective skills she’s gleaned from reading his mystery novels to work, and sets about searching for her parents. Her friendship with Jessa, a girl who is drastically different from her, becomes an invaluable part of her journey.
The Sound of Us by Julie Hammerle
Publisher: Entangled Teen
Release date: June 7
In The Sound of Us, Kiki Nichols is reeling from a nasty break-up with her best friend Beth, who betrayed her trust and hurt her deeply. She immerses herself in the world of a music camp that she hopes will provide a coveted scholarship to a top music program. As she forms new friendships at camp, Kiki struggles to figure out how to trust again after Beth’s betrayal.