Aren’t books about female friendships just the greatest? My favorite kinds of books in general are those that explore a variety of relationships. I’ve read and loved books about female friendships, the dynamics of married couples, parent-child relationships, and even male friendships. This list of books about female friendships has been burning a hole in my drafts for ages now. I’m happy to finally be sharing.
These 17 books about female friendships explore different aspects of this treasured and often complex relationship. From the fiery competitiveness in My Brilliant Friend to the sweet doggedness in If You’re Out There and the threat of dissolution of a friendship in Khamar Khullar’s Mustache, there’s something for everyone.
Books About Female Friendships
“When rising star Paris Secord (aka DJ ParSec) is found dead on her turntables, it sends the local music scene reeling. No one is feeling that grief more than her shunned pre-fame best friend, Kya, and ParSec’s chief groupie, Fuse — two sworn enemies who happened to be the ones who discovered her body.”
I really enjoyed this fast-paced YA mystery! A riveting story of two high-schoolers thrown into solving the mystery of their best friend’s death. After popular teen DJ, Paris Secord is murdered, two of her friends (who are not on speaking terms) come under public suspicion. Both girls are forced to band together against a group of darkly fanatic supporters, uncooperative police staff, and other hindrances to their efforts.
The Joy Luck Club
Four mothers, four daughters, four families whose histories shift with the four winds depending on who’s “saying” the stories. In 1949 four Chinese women, recent immigrants to San Francisco, begin meeting to eat dim sum, play mahjong, and talk. United in shared unspeakable loss and hope, they call themselves the Joy Luck Club. Rather than sink into tragedy, they choose to gather to raise their spirits and money. “To despair was to wish back for something already lost. Or to prolong what was already unbearable.” Forty years later the stories and history continue.
With wit and sensitivity, Amy Tan examines the sometimes painful, often tender, and always deep connection between mothers and daughters. As each woman reveals her secrets, trying to unravel the truth about her life, the strings become more tangled, more entwined. Mothers boast or despair over daughters, and daughters roll their eyes even as they feel the inextricable tightening of their matriarchal ties. Tan is an astute storyteller, enticing readers to immerse themselves into these lives of complexity and mystery.
My Brilliant Friend
“Dazzling” is the word that comes to mind when I think of this novel. Ferrante’s creation left me breathless too many times — vivid characters, an unbelievably vibrant setting, sharp, unique style of writing. What’s incredible to me is that essentially, this book is a soap-opera; the story follows the detailed internal and external going-ons in the lives of Elena, Lila and their friends. Yet, it is so arresting; especially difficult to put down after the 25% mark.
I found the girls’ friendship and competitiveness equally disturbing and fascinating. I’m still trying to wrap my mind around the many questions I have about their choices. Still, I find the choice of Elena as narrator to be interesting as it preserves the mystery of Lila. I definitely need some time to process before hopping into the next book, but really, this is such great work.
Now a HBO series:
Karma Khullar’s Mustache
“Karma Khullar is about to start middle school, and she is super nervous. Not just because it seems like her best friend has found a newer, blonder best friend. Or the fact that her home life is shaken up by the death of her dadima. Or even that her dad is the new stay-at-home parent, leading her mother to spend most of her time at work. But because she’s realized that she has seventeen hairs that have formed a mustache on her upper lip.
With everyone around her focused on other things, Karma is left to figure out what to make of her terrifyingly hairy surprise all on her own.”
“Two brown girls dream of being dancers—but only one, Tracey, has talent. The other has ideas: about rhythm and time, about black bodies and black music, what constitutes a tribe, or makes a person truly free. It’s a close but complicated childhood friendship that ends abruptly in their early twenties, never to be revisited, but never quite forgotten, either.
Tracey makes it to the chorus line but struggles with adult life, while her friend leaves the old neighborhood behind, traveling the world as an assistant to a famous singer, Aimee, observing close up how the one percent live.
But when Aimee develops grand philanthropic ambitions, the story moves from London to West Africa, where diaspora tourists travel back in time to find their roots, young men risk their lives to escape into a different future, the women dance just like Tracey—the same twists, the same shakes—and the origins of a profound inequality are not a matter of distant history, but a present dance to the music of time.”
A Thousand Splendid Suns
“Born a generation apart and with very different ideas about love and family, Mariam and Laila are two women brought jarringly together by war, by loss and by fate. As they endure the ever escalating dangers around them-in their home as well as in the streets of Kabul-they come to form a bond that makes them both sisters and mother-daughter to each other, and that will ultimately alter the course not just of their own lives but of the next generation. With heart-wrenching power and suspense, Hosseini shows how a woman’s love for her family can move her to shocking and heroic acts of self-sacrifice, and that in the end it is love, or even the memory of love, that is often the key to survival.”
A stunning accomplishment, A Thousand Splendid Suns is a haunting, heartbreaking, compelling story of an unforgiving time, an unlikely friendship, and an indestructible love.
The Woman Next Door
“Hortensia James and Marion Agostino are neighbors. One is black, the other white. Both are successful women with impressive careers. Both have recently been widowed, and are living with questions, disappointments, and secrets that have brought them shame. And each has something that the woman next door deeply desires.
Sworn enemies, the two share a hedge and a deliberate hostility, which they maintain with a zeal that belies their age. But, one day, an unexpected event forces Hortensia and Marion together.”
A funny tale of two sworn enemies who find out that maybe they’re not all that different after all. Loved the language of the book, although at times the dialogue was difficult to keep up with. Omotoso has created honest characters, whose inner monologues teach us a lot about life, love, longing and family.
Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants
“Carmen got the jeans at a thrift shop. They didn’t look all that great: they were worn, dirty, and speckled with bleach. On the night before she and her friends part for the summer, Carmen decides to toss them.
But Tibby says they’re great. She’d love to have them. Lena and Bridget also think they’re fabulous. Lena decides that they should all try them on. Whoever they fit best will get them.
Nobody knows why, but the pants fit everyone perfectly. Even Carmen (who never thinks she looks good in anything) thinks she looks good in the pants. Over a few bags of cheese puffs, they decide to form a sisterhood and take the vow of the Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants . . . the next morning, they say good-bye.
And then the journey of the pants — and the most memorable summer of their lives — begins.”
So Done follows two friends, Metai and Jamila living in a low-income Housing Project. Although, inseparable from childhood, things change when Jamila returns from a summer in the suburbs. Both girls are dealing with secrets and Mila appears to be different after her time in the suburbs, throwing her self into dance auditions for their new afterschool program.
I LOVED this book. I’m embarrassed to report that this is the first book by Paula Chase that I’ve read, but I loved it. Chase’s writing is so fluid and original. Metai and Mila’s voices were so distinct throughout the story that I could see them easily in my mind’s eye. More importantly, So Done tackles the struggles experienced even in adult friendships, the importance of stepping up to pursue your goals and the need to speak up even when you’re afraid.
If You’re Out There
“After Zan’s best friend moves to California, she is baffled and crushed when Priya suddenly ghosts. Worse, Priya’s social media has turned into a stream of ungrammatical posts chronicling a sunny, vapid new life that doesn’t sound like her at all.
Everyone tells Zan not to be an idiot: Let Priya do her reinvention thing and move on. But until Zan hears Priya say it, she won’t be able to admit that their friendship is finished.”
I enjoyed this YA mystery featuring smart girls + a sweet story of friendship, with just a dash of romance. Sometimes it felt like there was far too much narration than action, but overall, would recommend.
Spanning more than three decades and playing out across the ever-changing face of the Pacific Northwest, Firefly Lane is the poignant, powerful story of two women and the friendship that becomes the bulkhead of their lives.
From the beginning, Tully is desperate to prove her worth to the world. Abandoned by her mother at an early age, she longs to be loved unconditionally. In the glittering, big-hair era of the eighties, she looks to men to fill the void in her soul. But in the buttoned-down nineties, it is television news that captivates her. She will follow her own blind ambition to New York and around the globe, finding fame and success . . . and loneliness.
Kate knows early on that her life will be nothing special. Throughout college, she pretends to be driven by a need for success, but all she really wants is to fall in love and have children and live an ordinary life. In her own quiet way, Kate is as driven as Tully. What she doesn’t know is how being a wife and mother will change her . . . how she’ll lose sight of who she once was, and what she once wanted. And how much she’ll envy her famous best friend. . . .
For thirty years, Tully and Kate buoy each other through life, weathering the storms of friendship—jealousy, anger, hurt, resentment. They think they’ve survived it all until a single act of betrayal tears them apart . . . and puts their courage and friendship to the ultimate test.
A 15 year old student “elopes” (i.e. runs away)with her music teacher. The story is told through her best friend’s POV. This book is hard to put down, features themes of adoption and female friendship, and is very educative for the younger crowd regarding why such relationships are inappropriate. Overall, riveting, high drama, and important message.
When the Truth Unravels
RuthAnne Snow’s debut novel begins on the evening of Jenna, Elin, Ket, and Rosie’s prom. Readers immediately learn that Elin recently tried to kill herself. After some time in a treatment facility, and prescription meds, Elin’s parents want things to return to normal and pretend she never attempted suicide. Her friends keep her secret and plan for the best prom ever to convince Elin to keep living. Things are going well until midway through prom, Elin disappears.
The story is told in rotating POVs as each girl deals with Elin’s disappearance and all four friends band together to find her. Elin’s POV switches between past and present to show readers why she tried to kill herself. As the truth unravels, one thing is clear: nothing is as it seems with these girls. Author RuthAnne Snow shows that the way a person presents him or herself to the world isn’t always the truth of who they are.
To the public, Ket is the scandalous, sexualized friend; Elin, the mysterious one; Jenna, the perfect overachiever; and Rosie, the socially-inept bookworm. Readers will find, as happens in real life, that these girls have more bubbling under the surface.
Queen of Hearts
“Zadie Anson and Emma Colley have been best friends since their early twenties, when they first began navigating serious romantic relationships amid the intensity of medical school. Now they’re happily married wives and mothers with successful careers–Zadie as a pediatric cardiologist and Emma as a trauma surgeon. Their lives in Charlotte, North Carolina, are chaotic but fulfilling, until the return of a former colleague unearths a secret one of them has been harboring for years.
As chief resident, Nick Xenokostas was the center of Zadie’s life–both professionally and personally–throughout a tragic chain of events during her third year of medical school that she has long since put behind her. Nick’s unexpected reappearance at a time of new professional crisis shocks both women into a deeper look at the difficult choices they made at the beginning of their careers. As it becomes evident that Emma must have known more than she revealed about circumstances that nearly derailed both their lives, Zadie starts to question everything she thought she knew about her closest friend.”
Monday’s Not Coming
This story kinda blew my mind. When Claudia returns from summer break to realize that no one has seen her best friend Monday all summer, she starts to worry. Monday and Claudia have been best friends since forever — practically inseparable. Claudia is sure that Monday couldn’t have just abandoned her without a word, so she basically conducts her own investigation. She begins to discover chilling truths about her best friend that she never knew.
For a nearly 500 page novel, this story is incredibly fast paced, no part of it unnecessary. Monday and Claudia’s friendship is a celebration of the often intense friendships between young girls and Monday’s absence is like a missing limb. Author Tiffany Jackson doesn’t look away from the difficulties some children have to face, living in squalor and still showing up to life every single day.
Pieces of Happiness
When four friends are invited to the island of Fiji by an old friend of theirs, secrets and age old resentment unravel in this novel about friendship, love and chocolate.
What I enjoyed most about this book was the setting. I liked learning about Fiji and the people, customs and culture of Fiji. The characters in this novel I also found to be very interesting and multilayered. From Sina, the withdrawn, seemingly resentful one, to Kat, the “perfect” friend and the glue of the group and Lisbeth, the ever vain one.
On Black Sister’s Street
Each night, Sisi, Ama, Efe, and Joyce stand in the windows of Antwerp’s red-light district, promising to make men’s desires come true—if only for half an hour. Pledged to the fierce Madam and a mysterious pimp named Dele, the girls share an apartment but little else—they keep their heads down, knowing that one step out of line could cost them a week’s wages. They open their bodies to strangers but their hearts to no one, each focused on earning enough to get herself free, to send money home or save up for her own future.
Then, suddenly, a murder shatters the still surface of their lives. Drawn together by tragedy and the loss of one of their own, the women realize that they must choose between their secrets and their safety. As they begin to tell their stories, their confessions reveal the face in Efe’s hidden photograph, Ama’s lifelong search for a father, Joyce’s true name, and Sisi’s deepest secrets—-and all their tales of fear, displacement, and love, concluding in a chance meeting with a handsome, sinister stranger.
On Black Sisters Street marks the U.S. publication debut of Chika Unigwe, a brilliant new writer and a standout voice among contemporaryAfrican authors. Raw, vivid, unforgettable, and inspired by a powerful oral storytelling tradition, this novel illuminates the dream of the West—and that dream’s illusion and annihilation—as seen through African eyes. It is a story of courage, unity, and hope, of women’s friendships and of bonds that, once forged, cannot be broken.
[bctt tweet=”From the fiery competitiveness in My Brilliant Friend to the sweet doggedness in If You’re Out There, there’s something for everyone in this list of books about female friendships.” username=””]
I’ve read nearly all of these books about female friendships and am always open to adding more to my list! If you do read and love any of them, feel free to let me know! You can find me on Instagram or Goodreads. I’m also on Twitter.
What are your favorite books about female friendships? Let me know!