Over to you, Chris...
Just The Two Of Us: Friendship in YA
by Chris Russell
If it’s not too obvious to say so, friendship is incredibly important to me.
When I was thirteen, I formed a friendship that would go on to lay the foundations for my entire career. My best friend George and I started a band at school which would eventually take us around the world, and without my career in the music industry, I can’t imagine I would ever have written Songs About a Girl. George and I are still performing together to this day, and remain the best of friends; in fact, I’m now godfather to his second son, and in many ways our time together now is more precious than it ever was.
With all this in mind, it’s probably not that surprising that friendship ended up being so central to Songs About a Girl and Songs About Us. I’ll never the forget the fledgling romances of my teens, but if I’m honest, it was my best friendship that had the biggest impact on my life. So I’ve worked hard on Charlie and Melissa’s friendship in the novels, keen to make it believable and heartfelt, keen to do justice to how vitally important platonic relationships are during adolescence.
Charlie and Melissa adhere to the age-old “straight one / funny one” dynamic. Charlie has a dry sense of humour and a wry, eyebrow-raising take on life, while Melissa is the stooge, the kook, the one that just can’t seem to keep one single thought inside her head, no matter how ridiculous. Thinking about it, I could probably trace that dynamic back to my childhood, to classic comedy twosomes like Blackadder and Baldrick, or to Arthur Dent and Ford Prefect in The Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy. All artists recycle, of course. It’s our prerogative. :)
These days, more and more YA authors are veering away from simply writing romance and focussing on the equally rich landscape of teenage friendship (Beautiful Broken Things, anyone?), and I think that’s a really good thing. Because while crushes come and go, if we’re lucky, one or two of the friendships we make during our teenage years might just last the rest of our lives.
(Unlike haircuts, of course. For which we should all be eternally thankful.)
ps. While I’m talking friendship in YA, I wanted to tip my cap in the direction of American author Brigid Kemmerer and her novel Letters to the Lost. I recently reviewed Letters to the Lost for the Zoella & Friends Book Club, and aside from being an absolutely stunning book, it has possibly my favourite depiction of male friendship (Declan and Rev) in any YA book I’ve read. It’s gorgeous. Check out my video review here.