Q: Can men and women be friends and nothing more?
A: 1) Yes, and 2) Da-doy.
As a cultural talking point, it’s kinda cute when Harry Burns says they can’t, but way less cute when Jeremy Renner apparently agrees—and seems, further, to believe that a girl with male friends must just be a slut, right? To cleanse our collective minds of such lame assumptions, and to celebrate all those platonic friendships that make life worth living, here are 5 YA books that prove not every connection between a straight guy and a straight girl is a love story waiting to happen.
Staying Fat for Sarah Byrnes, by Chris Crutcher
The friendship between Sarah Byrnes and Eric Calhoune has its roots in survival: both were grade-school outcasts, he for his size, she for her disfiguring facial scars. But they connect over more than social status (and revenge on their tormentors), forging a bond based on the protective power of a caustic sense of humor and their love for each other—the bone-deep, platonic kind. After Eric joins the swim team—because it’s a “thinking man’s sport—he fears leaving Sarah behind in social purgatory, even binge-eating in an effort to keep on the weight. And when Sarah finally gives up her fight and withdraws into a dangerous depression, Chris fights to save her. Crutcher’s writing is dense, funny, and sharply honest, pulling no punches in telling a story of friendship’s redemptive powers—and a trench of misery so deep even the most devoted friend can’t follow.
Kissing Ted Callahan (And Other Guys), by Amy Spalding
Riley and Reid are more likely to inhale pastrami sandwiches together than to kiss (and, for that matter, more likely to high-five than hug), and just because their bandmates are hooking up doesn’t mean they will. In fact, when they discover the illicit relationship between their friends Lucy and Nathan, they rebound by embarking on a love quest of their own: they make a pact to pursue love (or at the very least, makeouts), to record all their experiences in a notebook, and to help each other along the way. Kisses, crushes, fights, and a battle for the heart of geeky Ted Callahan ensue, with nary a charged glance between Riley and Reid. Because they’re JUST FRIENDS.
How to Build a Girl, by Caitlin Moran
Dolly Wilde, née Johanna Morrigan, transformed herself from a grubby geek in a council flat to a hard-partying, man-eating rock journalist who can decimate an up-and-coming band with a swish of her poison pen. But when she meets John Kite, the tortured-musician object of her obsessive desire, it seems the story might move into another gear, telling a tale of first love. But despite her crush, their mutual affection—generally expressed through epic, drink-addled hangouts—never morphs into “something more,” because it’s enough as it is. We all know what it’s like to be swept into an addictive, fast-burn friendship that feels like love at first sight. Moran reminds us it can happen without attendant desire.
The Vow, by Jessica Martinez
Long-time best friends Annie and Mo have always struggled to convince people they’re just friends—then find themselves doing the exact opposite when the sudden threat of Mo’s deportation back to Jordan inspires them to embark on an impulsive plan: a marriage of convenience. Suddenly they’re navigating dangerous waters, emotionally and legally, forced to look closer at what truly underpins their bond. The level of sacrifice Annie is considering is thrown into sharp focus by her relationship with new boyfriend Tony, who represents a chance at happiness she’s willing to deny herself.
How to Say Goodbye in Robot, by Natalie Standiford
When Bea meets Jonah, the two withdrawn kids manage to see through each other’s robotic exteriors, connecting over both the fronts they put up to survive the day—Bea’s the lonely daughter of an itinerant professor father and a depressed mother, Jonah’s grieving a tragic loss—and over their eccentric obsession with late-night call-in radio. The arc of their slow-blooming relationship is as satisfying and revelatory as any love story, a meeting of minds that occurs on a beautifully rendered fringe. When a dark discovery about his family sends Jonah into a tailspin, Bea attempts to save him—but, like Crutcher’s Eric, discovers the power of friendship has its limits.