Finding Your Fictional Best Friend
During difficult times, happiness is often found in friendship. For this issue, we want to explore some of the best characters in fiction, characters we find inspiring because they are strong and determined, funny and creative. Here’s to the characters helping us to make these tough times a little easier.
Tiny Cooper in Will Grayson, Will Grayson by David Levithan and John Green
YA books are always full of characters that we wish were our best friends, yet the one that stands out to me is Tiny Cooper, best friend to one of the Will’s in Will Grayson, Will Grayson. Tiny Cooper is a force to be reckoned with: loud, proud and constantly the centre of attention. But his big personality is also accompanied by a big heart, too. Tiny Cooper has so much love to give, and he will always pick you up when you are down. To have joyful, positive people in your life is so important, and Tiny Cooper shows friendship at its best even while he navigates his own tough times.
Anne Shirley in Anne of Green Gables by Lucy Maud Montgomery
If anyone can make a bad situation feel a little happier, it is Anne Shirley, the eponymous character in Lucy Maud Montgomery’s Anne of Green Gables. Imaginative and creative, Anne is not afraid to speak her mind or stand up for herself. And while it’s fair to say she makes many mistakes throughout the series, instead of shying away from them, she works to make things right, being the perfect role model for young girls. Even though Montgomery’s novels are a product of their time, the message of making the best of troubling times and being true to yourself resonates strongly with current readers. With her bright orange hair and love for reading, Anne would be the ideal best friend.
Lyra Belacqua in His Dark Materials trilogy by Philip Pullman
If it’s fierce determination and reliability that you want in a friend, Lyra Belacqua has it in bundles in Pullman’s His Dark Materials trilogy. Driven by a steely resolve to find her friend Roger when he is taken by the General Oblation Board, Lyra is wilfully defiant, mischievous and rebellious in her bid to rescue her friend and many other Gyptian children whose lives are in danger. Balanced by the cautious and thoughtful nature of her inner self and her daemon, Pan. Lyra is strong and brave as she fights for the future of the world, even if it means breaking rules. Adventurous orphan to creator of universal harmony, Lyra has hidden gifts that make her truly unique and the perfect companion for a lockdown adventure.
Amma in Girl, Woman, Other by Bernardine Evaristo
Evaristo’s Booker Prize-winning Girl, Woman, Other contains a host of multi-faceted female characters that I felt I could have headed out the door in a heartbeat to meet. Amma is a spunky and driven mother, playwright and lesbian, who is waiting in anticipation for the opening of her play in a London theatre when the novel begins – in many ways, she is the ‘main’ character, with the book closing on the opening night. She grapples with her success, which brings her stability and agency while vowing to remain a powerful free spirit no matter what. In this polyphonic text, Amma’s voice is the one I long for genuine friendship with.
Ophelia in A Winter’s Promise by Christelle Dabos (translated by Hildegarde Serle)
Ophelia is a headstrong, independent young woman who faces many insurmountable obstacles in A Winter’s Promise and still manages to use her level-headedness to come out on top of each situation. From being forced into an arranged marriage with a man she’s never met and who will barely speak to her, to moving across the world to the faraway Ark of the Pole to live with her new fiancé’s family, Ophelia manages to stay true to herself even when she has little control over what is happening in her life. When she finds that her new life is filled with unimaginable dangers, she seeks out loyal friends and allies to keep her grounded in the tumultuous world of the Pole.
Circe in Circe by Madeline Miller
Circe may not be your initial pick for a literary best friend. This is especially true if the only representation you know of her is the turning-men-to-pigs witch from The Odyssey. Miller completely corrects this. Circe is re-imagined as a woman isolated from her family, longing for companionship that leads her to discover a forbidden power: witchcraft. It is an extraordinary adventure in the midst of an isolated life. Circe is a fantastic companion as we face lockdown in the cold winter months. Escape to a tropical beach where you can learn the value of independence with a strong and determined female character.