A note from Headbuzzer: Enjoy this guest post Swati Avasthi shared with the folks at Stacked as she chats about her new book, Chasing Shadows and the friendship between main characters Savitri and Holly! We've crossposted the post below, but you can read the original here!S
Swati Avasthi on Friendship in YA
Earlier this week, I posted my review of Swati Avasthi's Chasing Shadows and today she's here with a really fantastic post about friendship in adolescence and in YA lit.
In YA there’s an illusion – that the relationships formed in the books we read are endless. That high school romances and friendships survive the transition to college, to the working world, to whatever paths the characters take after high school is over.
I am a self-proclaimed, unabashed geek. I love sentence structure, can get passionate about the ill-semi-colon and swear that CMS is the One Format to Rule them All. In high school, I wouldn’t have claimed my identity so fearlessly – I didn’t know who I was; I was a bit of a floater (I lettered 5 times and was the editor of the literary magazine – I couldn’t be placed neatly into a box). But I never skipped classes, rarely turned in late work, put my hand up and participated – the works.
One day, during a free period, a friend broke down and told me that she’d been raped. As she was crying I skipped my next class – a suspendable offense in my school -- and we talked all through it until she felt better for that day. When I ran into the teacher whose class I’d skipped, I made no excuses. I was unapologetic, remorseless but honest – a friend needed my help and yes, I’d do it again if I needed to. He wanted details. But I wouldn’t cave because I knew one thing about myself: I was a good friend.
In a time of life when I had no idea who I was as a person, who I wanted to be growing up, and who I was as a girlfriend, I knew that one truth. I came of age as a friend. More than boyfriends, more than athletics, more than even writing, the thing I was sure of was my friendships.
Friendship stories (as compared to romances) are underdone in YA. I don’t feel like I need a whole lot of evidence to prove that – there’s a whole section for paranormal romance in Barnes and Noble and nothing equivalent for friendships. And often when friendships are portrayed in YA, they are portrayed like I had thought of them as a teen – endless, important, fixed. I was loyal to a fault.
But friendships are much more complicated than that, especially when you are young, especially when you are in transition, which most teens are. Only one of my friends from high school (and not the one I skipped class for) is still my friend. College changes everything. It changes who you are and sometimes, your friends change too and sometimes they don’t. Sometimes, they get left behind.
CHASING SHADOWS, my second novel, is about three friends who are inseparable. Fast, strong, freerunners, Corey, Holly and Savitri are one unit. When Corey is shot and killed, Holly and Savitri have to remake themselves in the shadow of a gunman, and in so doing, their friendship starts to fracture. Holly wants to go after the killer and Savitri, who had wanted to go away for college, no longer knows how to save Holly as she comes unglued. How far do you go for your friends? At what point is being a good friend about walking away?
It is a novel about how, when we change because of something we can lose the people we are and the friends we have.
My best friend from high school is still a very close friend of mine. But it didn’t happen easily. And there were times when I thought our friendship wouldn’t make the transitions it needed to as we went to college, got married, and had our own children. To keep a friendship, we have to let go of some of it – to let it change as we do, to let it evolve, and wax and wane sometimes.
Jane Resh Thomas says that lying to children is a sin. My job is to tell the truth as I understand it and the truth for me about friendships is that sometimes they don’t survive. And when they do, it is through letting them grow and change. It is not without struggles in which we define who we are as friends: what actions and beliefs we value most in ourselves and others. It’s not without conflict and drama, because this is about coming of age and self discovery, which can have casualties. In other words, it is the stuff of fiction. History is written by the victors; fiction is written by those who struggle.
This post was originally published on Stacked.com on October 10th, 2013