BFFs. Buddies. Besties. Guy pals. Call ‘em what you like, I see a slow going trend in YA of male authors of color writing stories that explore male friendships.
Most often, YA male characters are either loners or involved with a female character, either as a friend or love interest. The following books not only have male characters who are friends, but they explore the friendship and what makes it tick.
Are there others?
Surf Mules by G. Neri (Putnam Juvenile, 2009) When Logan goes searching for the Perfect Monster Wave, he doesn’t expect his former best friend to be killed by it. Add to this a deadbeat dad who bankrupted his family and the possibility of college going down the drain, and Logan is suddenly in a tailspin.
So when small-time dealer Broza offers Logan and his dropout pal, Z-boy, a summer job that could make them rich, it seems his problems might be solved. But between Z-boy’s constant screwups, a band of Nazi surfers out for blood, and a mysterious stranger on their tail, Logan is starting to have some serious doubts about hauling contraband across country, and hopes just to make it home alive.
Aristle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Saenz (Simon and Schuster, 2012) When Aristotle and Dante meet, in the summer of 1987, they are 15-year-olds existing in “the universe between boys and men.” The two are opposites in most ways: Dante is sure of his place in the world, while Ari feels he may never know who he is or what he wants. But both are thoughtful about their feelings and interactions with others, and this title is primarily focused on the back-and-forth in their relationship over the course of a year. Family issues take center stage, as well as issues of Mexican identity, but the heart of the novel is Dante’s openness about his homosexuality and Ari’s suppression of his. Sáenz (Sammy and Juliana in Hollywood, 2004) writes toward the end of the novel that “to be careful with people and words was a rare and beautiful thing.” And that’s exactly what Sáenz does—he treats his characters carefully, giving them space and time to find their place in the world, and to find each other. This moves at a slower pace than many YA novels, but patient readers, and those struggling with their own sexuality, may find it to be a thought-provoking read.
If I Ever Get Out of Here by Eric Gansworth (Arthur A. Levine, 2012) Lewis “Shoe” Blake is used to the joys and difficulties of life on the Tuscarora Indian reservation in 1975: the joking, the Fireball games, the snow blowing through his roof. What he’s not used to is white people being nice to him — people like George Haddonfield, whose family recently moved to town with the Air Force. As the boys connect through their mutual passion for music, especially the Beatles, Lewis has to lie more and more to hide the reality of his family’s poverty from George. He also has to deal with the vicious Evan Reininger, who makes Lewis the special target of his wrath. But when everyone else is on Evan’s side, how can he be defeated? And if George finds out the truth about Lewis’s home — will he still be his friend?
Darius and Twig by Walter Dean Myers (Amistad, 2013) Darius and Twig are an unlikely pair: Darius is a writer whose only escape is his alter ego, a peregrine falcon named Fury, and Twig is a middle-distance runner striving for athletic success. But they are drawn together in the struggle to overcome the obstacles that Harlem life throws at them.
The two friends must face down bullies, an abusive uncle, and the idea that they’ll be stuck in the same place forever in this touching and raw new teen novel from Walter Dean Myers, award-winning author of Monster, Kick, We Are America, Bad Boy, and many other celebrated literary works for children and teens.