The frenemy. Not quite a trustworthy friend, but not quite an all-out enemy. Instead, the frenemy exists in some shadowy space between, often veering back and forth between these two extremes. In my new novel, Broken Hearts, Fences, and Other Things to Mend [Feiwel & Friends, $17.99], the main characters, Gemma and Hallie, definitely fall somewhere along the frenemy spectrum. Gemma wrecked Hallie's life when they were kids, but when they meet by chance in the Hamptons years later, it's not clear if Hallie has forgiven Gemma... or if she's plotting the ultimate revenge.
Thinking of the frenemies in my book got me wondering about other frenemies in literature. The word was entered into the Oxford English Dictionary in 2008, but from this grouping of famous literary frenemies, it's clear the concept has been around for centuries.
Little Women by Louisa May Alcott
Sisters can be frenemies, too. Jo's relationship with Amy was always the most strained among the March sisters, and they were often at odds with each other. But Amy really took things too far when she burned Jo's manuscript -- to say nothing of marrying Laurie.
Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen
Lucy Steele is the keep-your-enemies-close version of the frenemy. She forms a friendship with Elinor just to keep her away from Edward Ferrars, and consistently remind Elinor of their engagement. And when she marries Edward's brother (!), she makes sure Elinor thinks she's married Edward. Lucy Steele is the WORST.
Bridget Jones and Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason by Helen Fielding
Rebecca is in Bridget's circle of friends, and a fairly innocuous presence in the first book. But in the second book, when Bridget and Mark Darcy are together, we see just how terrible she can be. She tries to create doubt and mistrust between Bridget and Mark, and then when they've broken up, she tries to steal Mark for herself. (Putting him in her room at the country house? NOT okay.)
A Midsummer Night's Dream by William Shakespeare
Sometimes it just takes a magical love potion to wreak havoc to let out the anger and resentment (along with a lot of insults about her height) you've been suppressing toward your supposed best friend.
The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson
Proof that you can sometimes be your own worst frenemy.
The Princess Diaries Series by Meg Cabot
While Mia and Lily's relationship starts out close, it becomes strained as the books progress. When you find out that your supposed BFF has created a website all about how much they hate you, things are not looking great for your once-strong friendship.
The Gossip Girl series by Cecily von Ziegesar
Blair and Serena bounced from enemies to friends to somewhere in between so often throughout the series, that it was sometimes hard to keep track.
Hedda Gabler by Henrik Ibsen
Just a thought - when your supposed friend makes jokes about burning off your hair... maybe don't hang out with that person any longer.
The Importance of Being Earnest by Oscar Wilde