A friend is a close companion: a person we confide in, are intimate with, play with, work with, and associate with on a regular basis. Life without friendship would be very lonely. Friends help us look at things in a different way. They’re there when we need somebody by our side. They give, they share, they understand.
One of the subtexts running through The F Words is the power of friendship. We see the friendship between Cole and Felipe in the second chapter, when Felipe insists on helping Cole remove the fifteen f words from the school wall. And when Cole, recognizing that Felipe has held back on running for class president, vehemently urges him to stop scrubbing off the f words and go put his name on the candidate list. In addition, Cole and Felipe are united not only in their ten-year history of shared experiences, but also in their struggle for social justice.
The new student, Treva, also fights for social justice. And, like Cole, she fights to help Felipe win the class election. Whereas Cole and Felipe are practically life-long friends, Treva is a new friend. But the bonds that tie her to Cole and Felipe are strong.
Cole Renner, the main character, has many friends. Not as many as Felipe, who everyone agrees is incredibly well liked and “sociable.” Cole is friends with Emerald, whom he admires for her intelligence. With Ethan, a fellow cross-country runner. And he has a friendly rivalry with Ricardo, star of the cross-country team.
The F Words focuses on Cole and his friends, but it’s also populated with adults — as any teen’s life is. There’s the principal (not a friend!), there’s Mr. Nachman, Cole’s English teacher. There are Hank and Stacey Renner, Cole’s parents. There are Veronica and Carlos Ramirez, Felipe’s parents. There’s Cole’s running coach. And there’s Nikki Zurlo, secretary to the principal.
Some of these adults are friends with each other. And, some of them are friends to the teens. Which brings me to the question, What’s the difference between being a friend with somebody and being a friend to somebody?
The difference, I would say, is that the energy of the friendship travels equally (more or less) when you’re friends with somebody. The energy between Cole and Felipe is a good example of this. But when you’re a friend to somebody, the energy of the friendship travels more strongly in one direction. Not in both directions. When an adult is a friend to a student, the energy travels mainly from the adult, who is more knowledgeable, to the student. Of course, this could work the other way, as when a teen is friend to an older person who might be housebound or incapacitated in some way. In The F Words both Mr. Nachman and Nikki Zurlo are friends to Cole. And Stacey Renner, Cole’s mother, is a friend to Treva.
I think that the richness of the friendships in The F Words, as well as the different directions the friendships travel in, makes for a very rewarding read. That’s assuming you enjoy reading about friendships! I do.
Tennessee Williams once said, “Life is partly what we make it, and partly what it is made by the friends we choose.” This is so true for Cole’s life — it is partly what he is making it, and partly what his friends are making it. That is a very rich and exciting life.
The F Words is available wherever books are sold: from the publisher, City of Light Publishing; from IndieBound, the site for independent bookstores; from Barnes & Noble; and from Amazon. To get updates and the latest news on The F Words, subscribe to Barbara Gregorich’s Newsletter.