The other day I had a flash of realization about why my first WIP wasn’t feeling quite right. I wanted a kickass heroine in the novel, but the way I had the two main characters set up, a guy and a girl, the girl wasn’t very kickass. It was the guy who had the kickass abilities, and even though the girl had her own unique thing she didn’t feel very kickass. So I thought, well, what if I make that one a girl? But I didn’t really feel like the first character would work very well as a guy, the way I had the motivations and romance thread between them planned.
It took me a while to consider a third option: what if neither character was male? What if, instead of being romantic interests, they became friends? The sort of friends you’d go to the ends of the earth with, like Sam and Frodo; or you’d do the hard things for, like in Code Name Verity; or it would break your heart to lose, like BBC’s Sherlock and Watson. Love-at-first-sight I-would-do-anything-for-you friends. There’d be romantic subplots, but not between each other, and the friendship would be the focal relationship of the novel.
Would that fly in YA, I wonder? It seems like in YA, the main relationship development is always a romantic one. Aside from Code Name Verity, I’m having trouble thinking of another YA where the main characters are simply friends, with no romantic undertones. Harry Potter kinda has that with Hermione and Ron, though the series started out as MG where relationships are friendships, not romances. Cassandra Clare’s Clockwork trilogy has a really strong friendship between two of the main characters, but the focal relationship of the plot is really the romantic one(s). And… I’ve gone through my whole Goodreads list and can’t come up with another where it’s a friendship that’s front-and-center.
Thoughts? Do you think readers would root as passionately for a friendship as a romance? Can you think of any other examples of strong central friendships in YA?