The Best Friend Characters are companion characters to the Historical Characters and two Girls of the Year. Best Friends and companions are not given unique time periods and wholly share the era and stories of the characters they are paired with.
Best Friends are often prominent characters in the Central Series books of their Historical Characters and Girls of the Year. In the Historical Collections, they showed a different aspect of the same time period due to differences in their backgrounds and/or situations while they are more subdued in the Girl of the Year collections. Because of their ties to their companions, they are not generally considered or marketed as separate stand-alone collections of their own; in marketing, they are seen as secondary characters to the main character, and so were often subjected to the same archiving when their companions were archived.
Cécile Rey and Marie-Grace Gardner, while sharing their time period and marketed as each other's best friend, are not considered part of the Best Friends line since they are given equal prominence in their historical time period and share their Central Series books.
List of Released Historical Best Friends
- Book: Nellie's Promise
- Book: Very Funny, Elizabeth
- Book: Brave Emily
- Book: Good Luck, Ivy
- Book: Really Truly Ruthie
List of Girls of the Year Companions
- 2009 - Sonali Matthews and Gwen Thompson, companions to Chrissa Maxwell
- 2022 - Gwynn Tan, companion to Corinne Tan
- Unlike the Historical Best Friends, Gwen and Sonali do not have individual books and came with a copy of the book Friends: Making Them and Keeping Them. Gwynn also does not come with a book.
History of Best Friends and Companions
The Best Friend line debuted in 2004 with the release of Nellie O'Malley, Samantha's best friend, who was released to coincide with the first American Girl Movie Samantha: An American Girl Holiday; Nellie was a main character in both the movie and Samantha's original stories. While it was initially advertised that Nellie was going to be a limited edition doll, overall positive reception to the release prompted American Girl to keep her as a permanent extension of Samantha's collection and expand the line to include other characters.
Elizabeth Cole, Emily Bennett, and Ruthie Smithens were each partially released as a tie-in to the upcoming movie of her companion; Ivy Ling was released with the initial debut of Julie Albright's release.
Chrissa Maxwell was the first Girl of the Year to be given companion characters in Gwen Thompson and Sonali Matthews; this was not done again until Corrine Tan, who was given her younger sister Gwynn. During Chrissa's availability, the Chrissa doll could be purchased with either Sonali or Gwen in two-doll sets, but Gwen and Sonali dolls could not be bundled together without Chrissa nor was there a three-doll bundle. Gwynn is available in a bundle with Corrine, but outside of the bundle there is no discount for buying both dolls together.
Best Friends were given much smaller collections than the Historical Character they were paired with. and while they were never displayed in the Historical Character's personal outfits, they were marketed as being part of (and thus being able to share) the collection of their companion. Some collectors who prefer the Best Friend often purchase items of the main Historical Character's collection for a Best Friend. Collections were also tied together; when Samantha's collection was archived, Nellie and her collection were as well. This was also true for Felicity and Elizabeth, Chrissa with Sonali and Gwen, and Molly and Emily.
In 2014 American Girl announced that the remaining best friends available for purchase--Ivy and Ruthie--would be retired along with Cécile and Marie-Grace, effectively ending the Best Friends line. One of the many official responses from American Girl was that they were seeking to return the focus of the Historical collections on the main characters themselves; later announcements for BeForever solidified the rumored remarketing of the Historical line.
The announcement of the retirements stirred up frequent public criticism in multiple media outlets, mostly emphasizing the loss of diversity in Historical Characters as Ivy was (and so far has been) the only Asian-American historical character, and Cécile was the only other African-American character available at the time besides Addy Walker.
Visual Changes to Released Best Friend Characters
In Felicity's illustrations and texts until 2005, Elizabeth was shown and described as having brown hair and eyes. In Felicity: An American Girl Adventure, she was played by Katie Henney, who is blonde with blue eyes. The doll was made to resemble the actress and the original illustrations and texts were edited to prevent discrepancies between the books and movie.
Emily is not really considered Molly's best or even closest friend; she originally appeared in only one of Molly's Central Series books, Happy Birthday, Molly!, as a temporary house guest seeking refuge from wartime London and was only expected to stay with Molly for a few weeks. She is thus marketed by American Girl as "Molly's English Friend." It was theorized that because Molly has two best friends (Linda Rinaldi and Susan Shapiro), a different character was chosen so that neither one would become more prominent than the other. Furthermore, since Emily is from England, her story offers a different perspective from Molly's that neither Linda nor Susan could give (especially since nearly every book in Molly's central series books features the three together as a group).
The movie Molly: An American Girl on the Home Front gave Emily a greater role and a different backstory than the books, as did the mystery The Light in the Cellar which fit within Molly's Central Series chronology. Emily's meet book, Brave Emily, mostly focused on the differences between American and British cultures and the Looking Back section discussed the lives of English children during wartime.
The illustrations of Emily in Happy Birthday, Molly! were edited to reflect the doll's looks; namely, that her hair was lengthened from a bob to shoulder-length and some clothes were changed to reflect actual items released.
The only major change with Ruthie was the doll being given grey eyes instead of the brown shown in book illustrations. The books were also not majorly changed).
Unreleased and Implied Best Friends For Other Characters
Other Historical Characters were never given official Best Friend characters. Suspicions were initially that, because all but Rebecca and Caroline have a best friend of color, these characters were not released due to possible prejudice; however, the more likely factor is that the declining popularity of the line resulted in eventual termination before these characters could ever be considered for release.
- Kaya'aton'my: Speaking Rain
- Josefina Montoya: Clara Montoya or Mariana
- Kirsten Larson: Singing Bird or her cousins, Anna Larson or Lisbeth Larson
- Addy Walker: Sarah Moore
- Rebecca Rubin: Ana Rubin
- Caroline Abbott: Lydia Livingston
Josefina does not technically have a prominent best friend; Clara is her older sister and Mariana was only mentioned in one book and given no further prominence in the series. Both characters were shown in Josefina's Paper Dolls II and Clara was part of the Magnetic Mini World.
Much like Emily was marketed as "Molly's English Friend", the Magnetic Mini Worlds list Speaking Rain as "Kaya's Sister" and Clara as "Josefina's Sister." Ana is Rebecca's cousin and has significant presence in the series, as does Lydia in Caroline's.
BeForever and Later Historical Characters
All characters after Caroline were released after the termination of the best friends line and any paper dolls, so all best friends after that are speculative.
- Gabi is present in Saige Copeland's balloon playset.
- Isabelle Palmer's ballet recital set includes a figurine of Luisa.
- Grace Thomas's home playset includes figurines of both Maddy and Ella; Sylvie is present in the Paris set.
- Camilla is present in Lea Clark's sanctuary set.
References and Footnotes
- While contemporary character Tenney Grant does have a companion in Logan Everett, he is not marketed whatsoever as a "best" friend and was marketed as an additional character in her stories.
- Announcement from American Girl's Facebook page
- Happy Birthday, Molly!, pg. 2-3: "No, just until her aunt gets better," said Molly. "But Mom says she'd be with us for a couple of weeks at least, and that means she'll be here for my birthday."
- Speaking Rain is Kaya's adopted sister/cousin.
- Based on Rebecca's Play Scenes and Paper Dolls and Rebecca's Fashion Design Portfolio.
- Based on Caroline's Play Scenes and Paper Dolls.