Best Friends and Frenemies — in Real Life and Fiction

I’ve always loved a good friendship story. In fact, one of the best ways to make me cry is by showing me two friends who will go through hell for each other — friends who have each other’s backs through the best and worst of times.

But what I didn’t realize until I was much older was that all of my favorite friendship stories revolved around boys — Harry and Ron from Harry Potter, Sam and Frodo from The Lord of the Rings series, and Cory and Shawn from Boy Meets World.

This struck me as odd since I watched and read a lot of female-centric media. When I stepped back and thought about it, however, I realized that in most of those stories, the girls or young women were either (a) frenemies — think Gossip Girl or Mean Girls, or (b) girls in dangerously unhealthy relationships with each other — see Heavenly Creatures and Thirteen. Sure, there were a few nice friendships in the young adult novels or teen movies I watched, but typically, these were in the background.

The best friend served mostly as comedic relief in a story that was primarily a romance. The good best friends almost always played second fiddle to the love interest.

So last year, when I sat down to write Lying Out Loud, I decided that I wanted to do something different. I wanted to tell a story where the best friend played just as important of a role as the love interest.

And I wanted that friendship to be more like the ones I saw occurring between girls when I was a teenager — close, deep, and complicated.
Something like my own friendships.
Shana (left) and me on my seventeenth birthday, in Calhoun, Kentucky in August 2008.

I met my best friend, Shana, during my sophomore year. We became fast friends. I wanted to talk to her constantly, to share everything with her. I’d see her at school only to come home and talk to her on the phone. We had sleepovers, co-wrote fan fiction together, and when she and her boyfriend broke up, I was the one she called at two in the morning. Our closeness was intense and, in many ways, paralleled a romantic relationship. Except it was purely platonic.

On the rare occasions when Shana and I did argue, it was always about something that mattered, never anything petty or shallow. And even when I was furious with her, the idea of our friendship ending never even crossed my mind. Because I knew we’d eventually get past whatever issue we faced.

We weren’t some sort of friendship anomaly, either. I knew and know many other women who had similar experiences. Sure, frenemies exist in high school. I had my fair share. But close, supportive, meaningful friendships do, too.

Don’t get me wrong, there are some friendships like this in the media — Ann and Leslie from Parks and Recreation or the ladies from Sex and the City come to mind — but typically these positive, more complex friendships were between adult women. Not teenage girls.

And so I wrote Lying Out Loud with that in mind. Because it was the kind of friendship story that I wanted to read, both as a teenager and now. A friendship story about two girls who love each other despite their flaws, whose conflict isn’t a fight over a boy but, rather, something more complicated. And also because I think it’s important for young women to see realistic, supportive friendships in their fiction.

And like I said before, there’s nothing I love more than a good friendship story.

Lying Out Loud by Kody Keplinger is out on April 28, 2015, from Scholastic Press.

Available for pre-order from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or your local independent.