One of the things I love most about MG and YA literature is the focus on friendship. Often overlooked in favour of a focus on romantic storylines, friendship subplots can be just as dramatically and emotionally satisfying to read. There are so many brilliant children’s books about best friends out there, but here are some stand-out examples that put best-friendship at the heart of the story.
Ghost Squad by Claribel A. Ortega
As well as being a fantastic, spooky read (perfect for Halloween, just in case you want to get your October TBR pile set up in advance), Ghost Squad features one of the most wonderful best friend pairings I’ve seen in recent children’s literature: heroine Lucely, a seer who can talk to her ghost relatives, and her best friend Syd team up to save their town from malicious spirits who threaten to destroy their community. With help from Syd’s witchy grandmother Babette and her magical cat Chunk, these two brave and resourceful girls use their friendship bond to triumph over evil magic.
Death Sets Sail by Robin Stevens
I’ve been a fan of Hazel Wong and Daisy Wells since their first adventure in Murder Most Unladylike, and have loved seeing how their friendship has developed over the series. Death Sets Sail is their final adventure, and as well as being one of the most brilliant homages to the work of Agatha Christie that I’ve ever seen, it’s a wonderful, if bittersweet, conclusion to the story of two best friends who’ve gone through so much together.
The Keys to the Kingdom Series by Garth Nix
Garth Nix’s The Keys to the Kingdom series is a magical, impossible story that will appeal to fans of Diana Wynne Jones, and, at its heart, has a brilliant best friend pairing. The hero Arthur, from the real world, and Suzy Turquoise Blue, an inhabitant of the mysterious and otherworldly House, team up in book 1 and have each other’s backs throughout the series. Whether they’re facing magical armies or trying to save the world from the creeping spread of nothingness, Arthur and Suzy rely on each other, and their friendship is the glue that holds the series together.
A Kind of Spark by Elle McNicoll
There’s so much to love about A Kind of Spark, the story of Addie, a young autistic girl who campaigns for a memorial to remember the women accused of witchcraft in her Scottish town – but one of the most heartwarming parts of the story is Addie’s growing friendship with new girl Audrey, who has recently moved to Scotland from London. As well as finding a loyal ally in her fight to have the accused witches recognised, Addie gets a true friend who likes her for who she is, rather than trying to make her change.
Fruits Basket by Natsuki Takaya
This classic manga series is best known for the dysfunctional Sohma family and the curse that causes them to turn into animals of the Chinese zodiac whenever they’re hugged by someone of a different gender. However, my favourite storyline involves the heroine Tohru’s relationship with her two best friends, Hana and Arisa. The trio take care of each other and support each other through multiple difficult times, and Hana and Arisa are especially protective of the sweet, often naive Tohru.
The Spinster Club series by Holly Bourne
Fierce feminists Evie, Amber, and Lottie are one of my favourite YA best friend trios. As well as taking on the patriarchy and standing up to toxic boys, they support one another through thick and thin, whether it’s helping Evie through an OCD relapse, supporting Amber as she attempts to reconnect with her estranged mother, or being there for Lottie as she deals with trolls targeting her after she begins a very public feminist resistance.
Electrigirl by Jo Cotterill
When Holly Sparkes gets storm-based superpowers after being hit by a lightning bolt, she knows she has to become a superhero – but she’s not sure how. Enter her little brother Joe and her best friend Imogen, who help her get control of her new powers and work out how to use them to defeat the evil Professor Macavity. Holly and Imogen’s friendship is one of the driving forces behind the story, and when Imogen is kidnapped, Holly is determined to save her.
Not Your Backup by C.B. Lee
The Sidekick Squad, the best friend group at the centre of CB Lee’s wonderful dystopic superhero series, are some of the best-realised characters I’ve read in a long time. Jess, Bells and Emma are a loveable group, willing to give up everything not only to support each other, but to fight for what’s right and save the world. I especially love Emma’s journey in Not Your Backup when, as the only non-powered member of the group, she has to overcome her feelings of frustration and jealousy and realise how much she contributes.
These kids books with best friend teams are just a few examples of the fantastic friendship storylines out there, where a pair or group of close friends join forces and do far more together than they could achieve alone. It’s unsurprising that best friend stories are such an important part of children’s literature, as it’s a time when readers are forming the best friend teams that will carry them through their own lives – often by sharing mutually loved stories.
For more books that feature friends in a school setting, check out our list of 50 Must-Read Books Set in Schools. To explore a different, but equally close kind of relationship, you can find recommendations at 10 Books About Sisters.