If there’s one thing I’m a sucker for, on-screen and on the page, it’s a good story about a friend group. Not only are they fun and give you a wide range of characters to identify with, but they also reveal the many layers and levels of the human experience, teach us empathy, and give us a new perspective. Whether they’re about newfound book clubs or longtime love, here are some squads I’d love to be a part of.
My 6 Favorite Literary Squads
Friends and former bandmates Elizabeth, Andrew, and Zoe have been by each other's side through love, loss, marriage, new businesses, and a gentrifying Brooklyn. It's all been fairly simple. But one summer, as their high school children come of age and someone from their past reemerges, the trio must confront who they were and who they've become in a novel that reads like a cross between The Big Chill and Friends.
It's a truth universally acknowledged that every friend group is bound to have its drama, and bestselling author Jessica Knoll brings it in spades to her second novel. Sisters, business partners, and lifelong rivals Brett and Kelly have always had their issues, but things come to a head when they join the cast of a reality show—and by the end of the season, only one will be left standing. Like BIG LITTLE LIES and LITTLE FIRES EVERYWHERE, this novel reveals the inner workings of a tight-knit group, with surprises at every turn.
A novel that follows in the tradition of classic postgrad movies like St. Elmo's Fire, WHY WE CAME TO THE CITY follows Sara, George, Jacob, William, and Irene—who five years after graduating college are all living in New York, determined to succeed in their careers and relationships and stay close to one another. But when sudden and devastating news rocks the group, they are forced to reexamine their decisions and grow up in a way they never expected.
I’m a huge fan of what I call “group novels”—books that focus on a few people, usually friends, in a specific place and over a specific period of time. Mary McCarthy, Meg Wolitzer, and Kathleen Alcott are among my favorites, and this past year, Kristopher Jansma joined the fray. Set in New York in the early years of the financial crisis, WHY WE CAME TO THE CITY follows a group of college friends after graduation, and presents some of the most honest and beautiful portraits of relationships I’ve ever read (just read the first chapter—it’s insane). This novel is an unflinching, heartbreaking, and somehow uplifting story about how people change your life as everything else changes around you, and about how a place can do the same. —Julianna
If you like your friend groups with a vintage, Mary McCarthy feel, Rona Jaffe's classic is a great addition to your list. Set in Mad Men-era New York, the novel follows three young female assistants at a publishing house—Caroline, who dreams of being an editor; Gregg, who dreams of being a wife; and April, who dreams of being a star—as they navigate the complications, broken hearts, and broken dreams of being a woman in a man's world.
The story of five young women employed at a New York publishing company, this classic electrified readers when it was first published in 1958. Following the women’s adventures with intelligence and sympathy, it remains touchingly true to the personal and professional struggles that women face.
Perhaps the ultimate friend-group novel, THE INTERESTINGS is set over the course of nearly three decades as six friends experience love, loss, and life's highs and lows, while everything changes around them except their love for one another. A novel that begs to be read and reread, it's a timeless story about the ever-evolving bonds between people and the ways that friends can become family.
“Like any good friend group, Wolitzer’s novel has a little bit of everything. There’s romance, there’s comedy, there’s drama, there’s sadness, and there’s an undeniable, everlasting devotion to the people you take the journey with.”
When they are reunited at a friend's wedding, Kezia, Nathaniel, and Victor quickly slip into their old roles: Victor loves Kezia, Kezia loves Nathaniel, and Nathaniel loves himself. After a drunken postreception encounter reveals the existence of a missing heirloom necklace, the group sets off of an adventure that takes them from Miami to New York to Los Angeles to France in search of answers. The result is a witty and unputdownable story about growing up and figuring out what's real—and what's fake—when it comes to friendship.