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underneatheverything

Can’t tell if the person you’re hanging out with is a friend or a frenemy? Marcy Beller Paul, author of Underneath Everything, has a few tips to help you figure it out.

When you meet a new friend who gets you it’s like

But it doesn’t usually stay that way.

When I read back through the notes I passed with my girl friends in high school (yeah, I still have them, so what?), there’s one thing that comes up over and over again. Basically, if I made those notes into a book (note to self: make those notes into a book) there would be a really obvious theme and that theme would be: who are my real friends? We asked each other this question every way we knew how: Are you mad at me? Who do you trust? Who should I invite to my house? Are you in a fight? Why? I have a secret, can I tell you? We wanted to trust each other, but we couldn’t tell the difference between a true friend and a friendly enemy.

Mattie, the main character in Underneath Everything, has the same problem. She can’t tell the difference between a best friend and a toxic friend. It sounds easy, but the truth is, best friends and toxic friends do a lot of the same things, they just do them for different reasons. So I recruited one of my own friends, Jaime Primak Sullivan (of Jersey Belle and #cawfeetawk fame), to help me come up with this list about how to tell the difference.

1. They have strange reactions to your good news.

Andy Samberg celebrate gif

You have an awesome day. Maybe you won a tennis tournament or got a great grade on an English paper. Maybe you aced your SATs. You can’t wait to share the news.

Your Best Friend
Is so happy for you it makes the happiness you were already feeling double.

Your Frenemy
Acts likes it’s no big deal. She may even go as far as to tell you about something she did, so that your accomplishment disappears and the attention is back on her. She can’t feel true happiness for you because she’s competing with you.

2. And even stranger reactions to your bad news.

Scream Queens cry gif

You had an awful day. You got in a fight with your mom, broke up with your boyfriend, failed a quiz you swear you studied for, or didn’t make the musical. You need someone to cry with.

Your Best Friend
Listens carefully, doesn’t interrupt, sits with you for as long as you want, shares your pain, and offers you a new perspective that cheers you up and makes you feel better.

Your Frenemy
Wants all the gory details of how terrible it was. You feel heard, but you don’t feel better. And you’re kind of worried that you may have said too much, because this friend doesn’t want to make you feel better, she wants ammunition that she can use against you at some other time.

3. They pin you and your other friends against each other.

Scott Pilgrim gif

Can’t we all just get along? Well, not really. At least not all the time. Sometimes people in our friend group fight, right? And it’s uncomfortable for everyone, even if you’re not involved.

Your Best Friend
Doesn’t force you to take a side. After talking to her, you’re just happy she’s your friend because you know you two would never get into a fight like that.

Your Frenemy
Trashes both people, whether they’re fighting or not. She picks a side immediately and convinces you to pick the same side. The next time she has people over or plans an event she excludes the person she didn’t pick, because she doesn’t want friends, she wants control.

4. They complain about being left out of any part of your life.

Just because you’re best friends doesn’t mean you have all the same interests. Maybe you love soccer and she loves the saxophone. Either way, you’re going to be spending some time apart.

Your Best Friend
Can’t wait to meet up later and hear all about it.

Lana del Ray gif

Your Frenemy
Hates to be alone and acts like anything you do for yourself is an insult.

But really she’s just afraid, because if you have something of your own it’s more difficult for her to control you.

5. They act differently when other people are around.

When it’s just the two of you everything is cool, but when you’re with a bigger group, things are different.

Your Best Friend

Catches your eye because she knows what you’re thinking, makes you feel like you belong, and gets you laughing.

Your Frenemy
Treats you like her favorite sometimes and cuts you down other times. Either way she’s always the one at the top. Being in a group with her is like being in battle.

Bad Blood gif

Hopefully you’ve now come to the conclusion that your friend is truly a best friend, but if it turns out that friendship is a bit on the toxic side . . . maybe it’s time to start making some new friends. And don’t forget to read Underneath Everything, available now!


What are some of your favorite YA friendships (toxic or otherwise)? Tell us in the comments! Check out Underneath Everything here!