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Megan Abbott's Favorite Novels About Female Friendships

July, 2018
Megan Abbott

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In the new psychological thriller Give Me Your Hand, author Megan Abbott looks at how a life-changing secret can destroy an unlikely friendship. As a teen, Kit Owens finds that her ambitions are ignited by a mysterious new classmate, Diane Fleming. The girls quickly become best friends—and friendly rivals—as they vie for a coveted science scholarship. But when Diane confesses a dark secret, their relationship ends. More than a decade later, when the two women are reunited and are again competing, this time for a coveted job, the past roars back to life with deadly consequences.

Abbott's previous work includes Dare Me, You Will Know Me, and The Fever. Currently, she is a staff writer on HBO's new David Simon show, The Deuce, and is adapting two of her novels for television and feature film. Abbott knows a thing or two about writing about the dark side of female friendships, and here she picks her favorite literary duos.

"While not heartwarming tales or the stuff of Hallmark movies, these books feel deeply, squirmily true to me about the complexities that can riddle relationships between women—relationships that shuttle uneasily between love and aggression, intimacy and envy, identification and desire. And all explore the ways in which a female friend—especially one who's made bolder choices, braved more hazardous terrain—can force us, sometimes uncomfortably, to reflect back on ourselves, our own decisions, our own chosen paths," says Abbott.

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Irene and Clare in Passing
by Nella Larsen
"This recently reissued gem from the Harlem Renaissance centers on two childhood friends reunited, both having built very different lives (one is passing as white), and the slippery feelings of envy, passion, and simmering resentment between them."


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Sheba and Barbara in What Was She Thinking?
by Zoë Heller
"A new teacher is taken under the wing of a senior one, but when the younger begins an illicit affair, things get very complicated, very fast. A fascinating portrayal of a predatory friendship."


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Hannah and Lacey in Girls on Fire
by Robin Wasserman
"Teenage female friendships—the kind that begin suddenly, burn hot, then explode—are the stuff of so many good novels, and Wasserman's is one of the darkest and richest in recent years."


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Juliet and Pauline in So Brilliantly Clever
by Peter Graham
"My nonfiction outlier, an utterly absorbing account of the same true story dramatized in Peter Jackson's luminous and harrowing movie Heavenly Creatures, explores an adolescent friendship-turned-folie à deux, culminating in murder."


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Nel and Sula in Sula
by Toni Morrison
"All of these tales foreground the tensions between a rebel and a rule follower, and Morrison finds fresh magic in it, spinning the tensions between conventional Nel and renegade Sula into a slim, heartbreaking masterpiece."


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