YA fiction is ripe with authentic representations of what friendship means, and how it can change lives. From books about finding your tribe when you’re feeling lost, to the pain of fallings-out — all this (and more) is covered in this Collection of the best YA books about besties.

We’ll kick-off with funny friendship-themed fiction that also offers a fresh take on the “will they, won’t they?”, besties-to-couple trope. Namely, This is How You Fall in Love. Entertaining and super-cute, this sees a British-South-Asian teenager write her own real-life romcom script. Think of it as a friendship-themed romcom about romcom, with added romcom twists!

Next up, a recent favourite — The No-Girlfriend Rule by Christen Randall. Heart-warming, authentic and radiant with sisterhood and body positivity, it sees a teenage girl find life- changing confidence when she finds her tribe at an LGBTQIA+-friendly gaming group.

Also suffused in life-changing sisterhood, I absolutely adored Clementine Beauvais’ Piglettes in which three French girls find joie de vivre, liberté, égalité and sororité in a funny tale of female friendship and empowerment. Also addressing body shaming in inspirationally audacious style, the Three Little Piglettes voyage à vélo to Paris and overcome online haters through pulling together.

Moving now from Paris to London (though, as it happens, its fabulous protagonist Amber longs to visit Oscar Wilde's grave in Paris), The Moonlight Dreamers sees a group of girls unite when Amber issues an online call to find fellow Moonlight Dreamers — kindred spirits who “dream of freedom and adventure”. Though they come from very different worlds, sisterly support sees the girls pursue their passions, and overcome challenges in the process.

Another top YA novel that sees girls from different sides of the tracks form lifechanging bonds is Bad Girls Never Say Die — a powerful gender-flipped re-invention of The Outsiders

Then there’s The World Between Us in which a girl with a chronic illness and an artist boy with family troubles form a life-changing connection. Unlikely friendship has rarely been portrayed more beautifully, with the bonus that this also explores friendship between a teen girl and a teen boy, which is pretty rare.

That said, a mixed-gender friendship group is at the heart of one of the most brilliant YA books I’ve read — Jeff Zentner’s The Serpent King. Exploring small-town small-mindedness, religious fanaticism and the redemptive power of friendship, this southern gothic story is a triumph.

YA novels entirely centred on male friendship are also pretty rare, but thankfully Phil Stamper’s Golden Boys and its sequel Afterglow are gems about exactly that. Golden Boys follows four gay friends from small-town Ohio as they embark on the potential summer-of- a-lifetime ahead of starting their senior year at high school.

Mention must also be made of All American Boys. Co-written by Brendan Kiely and Jason Reynolds, this immensely powerful novel about police brutality against young Black men shines a glaring light on white privilege alongside portraying important friendship bonds.

We also adored Reynolds’ Forever Ends on Friday. Centred on a stirring concept —“If matter doesn’t die, if energy can’t die, then no one really dies” — its endearing protagonist wonders whether he could bring his best friend back to life to say goodbye…

Sara Barnard’s work deserve special mention, too. For example, Beautiful Broken Things — like its companion Fierce Fragile Hearts — presents a powerful, punch-packing portrait of the ebbs and flows of friendship. Meanwhile, Destination Anywhere sees a young woman escape past trauma through finding true friends who help her start afresh.

Lastly, before leaving you to dive into the full Collection, we wanted to highlight Glenda Millar’s The Stars at Oktober Bend — this story of how a girl whose “soul is filled with songbirds” survives the unimaginable shows friendship at its most transformative.