I read this great post about the age-old question, "Can boys and girls ever be ONLY friends?" As I was reading all the comments, it got me thinking about YA lit: Can boy and girl main characters in YA lit have platonic relationships?
One of the things I love about the Harry Potter series is that there is no romance between Harry and Hermione. Having had a guy, whom I never had any romantic tendencies toward (or vice versa), as one of my best friends when I was an adolescent, I'm happy to see an equally platonic friendship portrayed in a popular series.
How common is that, though? If art imitates life, is the platonic relationship uncommon in books because it's not common in life?
As I was reading the reactions to Aidan's post, I was quickly reminded of other literary relationships. Many people spoke about their platonic relationships which blossomed into love, like Hermione and Ron. Others lamented how friendships were ruined because there was an underlying tension which turned into romantic feelings for one party that weren't equally reciprocated by the other (think Bella and Jacob). Still others talked about friends becoming friends with benefits. Okay, I admittedly can't think of a literary example right now, but I'm SURE there is one.
What do you think? Does the boy always get the girl (or vice versa) in YA lit, or are there an equal number of examples of true friendships, like the kind Harry and Hermione have?
Yes. To all of your questions. *wink*
No, okay, seriously... I do think that for most people platonic boy/girl relationships are few and far between. When you throw in the hormones, growing, and exploring that happens during the ages of twelve to twenty (and then some), I think that those odds fade even more. Think about it: in high school, how often were you really just friends with someone that didn't (eventually) either develop feelings for you or you for them?
For me, every time a boy even LOOKED at me I was convinced that he must "like" like me. And then I ran and hid.
It seems to work the same way in most of the lit that we read. Take Clary and Simon from Mortal Instruments, for example. They may start out as "just friends" but it becomes more for at least one of them.
I have really been trying to think of a truly platonic friendship in YA literature. I was quite sure that at least a handful existed, but so far I can only think of relationships where the boy is flamboyantly gay, and thus not a threat.
But one thing that the Bella-Jacob or Clary-Simon type of relationship allows for in YA lit is the exploration of Unrequited Love, which is a much more common experience for young people to go through, perhaps, than the platonic boy-girl friendship. Perhaps that is why there are so many more examples of Unrequited Love than the truly platonic friendship.
I think the thing that we see in these "explorations," so to speak, is that since the relationship started as friendship the non-interested party often tries to make a romantic relationship work for the sake of their friend. It makes sense, after all, to be in love with someone you share so much with. Love doesn't make sense, though, and we see through their struggles that you can't force a relationship and you shouldn't be with someone for the wrong reasons.
As for Harry and Hermione, I think the only reason they stayed "just friends" and never explored a possible romantic relationship was because they both found love with someone else. It's completely believable that they found everlasting love with someone at the age of sixteen simply because of what they went through. In a different situation, they wouldn't have grown up so fast, and the question remains as to if they would have stayed together. If those relationships hadn't worked out, you know we'd have seen Harry and Hermione rebound with one another.