We recently read and reviewed Done Dirt Cheap by Sarah Nicole Lemon which was a fantastic book about female friendships and navigating difficult circumstances together. It showed female friendship in an authentic and complex way. My favourite quote – “We’re friends because when girls – women – are alone in this world, they’re easier to pick off.” – shows just how important this friendship was in the book and how empowered these girls were stood side by side. (You can read my full review here.) Then we read Gem & Dixie which was a touching story about two sisters struggling with their dysfunctional family. Both books reminded us of why we love female relationships and friendships. I love stories with female characters uplifting and supporting each other and their friendship. So here is a list of some of our favourite books with female friendships and female sibling relationships.
1. Gem & Dixie by Sara Zarr
Gem & Dixie is about two sisters who were once incredibly close, only to grow apart as they grow older. Gem and Dixie grew up in a broken home, only able to rely upon each other, but as they grow up the two drift apart until their father, who they haven’t seen since they were children, suddenly reappears in their lives. It’s a book that explores a complex sisterly relationship, and how Gem felt she had to take care of Dixie. I really loved their dynamic, and to see them grow closer as the novel progressed was a high point. I would certainly recommend this book to any one looking for a complex, sisterly relationship in a broken home.
2. Done Dirt Cheap by Sarah Nicole Lemon
Done Dirt Cheap is a story where two girls become friends out of necessity. Tourmaline is the daughter of the president of the town’s biker club, the Wardens. Virginia was sold to a sleazy and criminal attorney to deal drugs for him. Her next job is to take down the Wardens, but when Virginia meets Tourmaline she has a change of feelings and she sees a way out. Both girls latch on to each other to help each other navigate their confusing and dangerous circumstances. They lie to each other and argue through the course of the book, but it’s an authentic and complex female relationship that was refreshing to read.
3. Cherry by Lindsey Rosin
Four girls – Layla, Alex, Emma, and Zoe – make a pact to lose their virginity before they graduate. Layla is determined to lose it to her boyfriend Logan, so she’s sure she’s got in in the bag. Alex has already done it, or she says she has. Emma is not seeing the fun or the fuss in the pact, but why the hell not? And Zoe can’t even say the word orgasm without turning red and bursting into giggles. But along the way they encounter new relationships, new loves, remember the importance of their friendship, and they are led on a path of self-discovery. Cherry openly discusses a lot of important sex-related questions and fears a lot of girls face, but sex is always treated as something fun and positive which I think is largely missing in YA. The girls never get shamed, and they support and lift each other up.
4. Run by Kody Keplinger
Agnes is a good girl, she’s always in before her curfew, she goes to church, and she follows all her parent’s overbearing rules – rules put in place because she’s legally blind. Bo is the complete opposite. She’s the ‘bad girl’ with a wild reputation. However, the two become unlikely best friends and find out that reputation and perceptions are not always true. I love the characters individually but together they were fantastic. Agnes ran away with Bo – no questions asked – because she was in trouble. An enthralling and female-focused novel that is a favourite of mine.
5. One by Sarah Crossan
Grace and Tippi are conjoined twins and they could never imagine their lives any different and they have a bond no one can understand. Their parents can no longer afford home-schooling so now Grace and Tippi must venture into the outside world filled with stares, questions and cruelty. Due to life changing circumstances, both Grace and Tippi have a decision to make which may have risks that neither of them could imagine. One is a beautifully written and utterly heart-breaking novel which really captures that bond between twins perfectly. I just really loved Grace and Tippi. They both had such unique and fun personalities and you really grow to love and adore. Their relationship with each other, and their family and friends were fantastic and really well developed.
6. To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before by Jenny Han
Lara Jean writes letters to boys when she had feelings for them, and she hid it in a box. However, one day those letters get sent out to all the boys she’s had a crush on, including her sister’s ex-boyfriend, and Lara Jean now has to deal with the consequences. The Song Sisters are the most memorable part of To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before – it’s a fantastically written relationship. They have some really great bonding moments and they were really great to read. This book is filled with so much love and heart and fun, it’s an easy recommendation.
7. Exit, Pursued by a Bear by E.K Johnston (TW: Sexual assault)
Exit, Pursued by a Bear is a powerful, gut-wrenching novel about a girl who refuses to be defined by sexual assault. She finds strength in herself, her family, her superhero best friend Polly, her therapist and unlikely institutions such as the police. Whilst many rape victims go unheard and are isolated, Exit, Pursued by a Bear portrays how it should be, and how a support system aids in healing. There was some also really great female friendships and relationships. Her best friend Polly is her rock, she’s always there for Hermoine. They truly are friendship-goals.
8. Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein
Code Name Verity is a wartime novel about two women working with the Allied Forces. ‘Verity’ is captured by the Nazi’s after crash landing in Nazi-Occupied France, and she is tortured into writing her confession. Everyone following me is probably sick of me constantly recommending this book. But it is an all time favourite –“KISS ME, HARDY. Kiss me, QUICK!” will always make me cry like a baby and “Fly the plane, Maddie.” will make me cry even more. Code Name Verity is a story about friendship, love, bravery and sadly death in times of war. You’ll fall easily in love with a stubborn Scotswoman and an intelligent British pilot and their heartwarming and heartbreaking friendship – I guarantee it. The companion novel Rose Under Fire also features some breathtaking friendships.
9. Three Dark Crowns by Kendare Blake
Three Dark Crowns follows three queens, triplets born on the island of Fennbirn, who are all vying for the crown. As alliances form, schemes to tear down the queens become deadly. Whilst there is a fair amount of a romance in this book, the relationships that the sisters have with their friends, mentors, and each other has a pretty heavy focus and something that I hope will be developed in the later books. It’s a dark fantasy, and so the relationship between the sisters is complex and riddled with jealously and competitiveness, but the they are so well-developed.
10. The Revenge Playbook by Rachael Allen (TW: Sexual assault)
I loved this book. It caught me off guard and was such a pleasant surprise. The Revenge Playbook tackles issues such as slut shaming and rape culture. I loved how much female empowerment was present in these 360 pages! I really enjoyed all the characters, their dynamic and their development as a team, and as friends. I would highly recommend this book to fans of revenge books, and of books like Burn for Burn by Jenny Han and Get Even by Gretchen McNeil.
11. Paper Hearts by Meg Wiviott
Paper Hearts, based on real life events, followed the blossoming friendship of two girls – Fania and Zlatka – in a time of war, death, and prejudice. Whilst the novel is in verse, and is a quick read, it’s full to the brim with emotion. The relationship between Zlatka and Fania was empowered and well-developed. Zlatka risked her life to make Fania a birthday card, and Fania risked her life to keep it. I would recommend to fans of female-centred books and for fans of historical fiction.
12. American Street by Ibi Zoboi
Une belle vie. A good life. That’s what Fabiola Toussaint thought she would find on the corner of American Street and Joy Road. But as they enter the United States from Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Fabiola’s mother is detained by U.S immigration, leaving Fabiola to navigate her new surroundings and her American cousins on her own. American Street is a poignant, character-driven novel. Fabiola’s fight for her mother is central to the novel. My favourite part was the family dynamics. It’s clear from the start that Fab has an undying devotion to her mother, but we also get to see Fab’s blossoming relationship with her Aunt and her cousins.
What are some of your favourite books that feature female friendships?