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The grumpy/sunny trope isn’t anything new, but seeing Wednesday and Enid becoming best and unlikely friends on the new Netflix show reminded me how much I love this dynamic, whether in friendships or romance. There’s just something about a hard-nosed, stoic character that’s soft for that one overly optimistic person in their life, and that soft character that shows its hard edges in return that makes me feel all warm and fluffy inside. And thankfully, there’s no shortage of Grumpy/Sunshine Duo books that offer just that.
Most of us can only aspire to be as confident and independent as Wednesday, who said, “Sometimes I act like I don’t care if people like me. Deep down, I secretly enjoy it.” Iconic. But even Wednesday eventually learns that having friends — and family — to support you can only make you stronger. And whether it’s taking a dart for Xavier or trusting Enid to take on the Hyde, Wednesday proves caring doesn’t have to compromise your stoic goth aesthetic. These ten grumpy/sunshine duo books might not be Wednesday and Enid, but they might at least get you as far (fingers crossed) as season two.
The very secret society of irregular witches of Sangu Mandanna
As one of the few witches in Britain, Mika Moon has always known that she must keep her powers a secret. When asked to teach three young witches how to control their powers, she is initially suspicious. But the strange group of caretakers at Nowhere House seems to be real, and soon Mika falls in love with this close-knit found family. Even the closeted librarian Jamie only wants the best for the children in his care. Mika and Jamie are as different as day and night, sun and storm, but somehow they go well together. And being so different only makes them an even better team.
A Wonderful Light by Freya Marske
A laid-back baronet with an upbeat outlook on life and a stuffy wizard thrown together in this incredible historical fantasy novel, set in a magical version of Edwardian England. Robin Blythe would never have known magic existed were it not for an administrative error that designated him as the newest liaison to the magical community. Over the course of a day, he discovers magic exists, is cursed by a gang of wandering wizards, and meets the world’s most awkward colleague, Edwin Courcey. But to break Robin’s curse and save the magical world from a dark conspiracy, Robin and Edwin must work together. Close to each other. And soon Robin begins to realize that behind Edwin’s hardened exterior is a good man who just wants to be loved.
Good Omens by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman
Grumpy/Sunshine Pairs don’t always have to be romantic partners either! (Though more power – and fanfic – for you if you ship Wednesday/Enid or Aziraphale/Crowley.) Like Wednesday and Enid, Azirahpale and Crowley are unlikely friends. I mean an angel and a demon? OK? But that’s one of the reasons this wacky end-of-the-world novel works so well: It’s never quite what you expect.
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Wicked by Gregory Maguire
Enid and Wednesday reminded me so much of my original favorite Sunshine/Grumpy duo: Glinda and Elphaba. They have so much in common, even down to the aesthetic. Yes, my love for them came from the musical, not the book, and the two are quite different. But nonetheless, Glinda and Elphaba are an iconic duo of sunshine and grumps for the ages. Elphaba rocks the same sort of goth, color-shy style as Wednesday, and of course Glinda (or Galinda, if you prefer) is preppy, as they come. This book is definitely not for children or probably even teenagers. As I said, not the musical. Not the musical at all.
The House in the Sky Blue Sea by TJ Klune
A by the Book clerk for the Department of Magical Youth is tasked with one of his toughest cases yet: determining whether a small orphanage raising six dangerous children is likely to bring about the end of all days. Linus has never really thought about what happens to the facilities he assesses after he sends in his reports, but after meeting the orphanage’s charming caretaker on Marsyas, Arthur Parnassus, he is forced to leave his job for another to see perspective. And maybe, just maybe, Arthur’s weird little home could have a place for Linus too.
Witchlings by Claribel A. Ortega
Ortega’s witchy middle-class series mixes up the grumpy/sunny trope by featuring a mean girl with bubblegum pink hair and her fearful opposite. Seven, the wayward leader of this trio, conjures up an ancient ritual to save the three from becoming “reserves” whose powers will never manifest as a coven. Unfortunately, that means working with the spoiled rich girl who has been bullying her for years. But is Valley really just a mean girl? And is Thorn, the third member of her group, just a nervous Nelly? Perhaps the three need to come together and look beyond the surface to realize that friendship can come in the most unlikely of forms.
I’m No Starfire by Mariko Tamaki and Yoshi Yoshitani
The Grumpy/Sunshine couple in this graphic novel are mother and daughter — which actually pretty much fits Wednesday too, if you think about it. Famous superhero Starfire has a daughter, and her daughter is tired of being compared to her perfect mother. Starfire is bright, colorful, friendly, and upbeat. And Mandy is… not. She’s a goth teenager who just wants to make her own place in the world without her mother’s legacy hanging over her. But that’s hard when your mom is a famous superhero.
Gideon the Ninth by Tamsyn Muir
A cheeky swordswoman and a perfectionist necromancer clash before becoming inseparable in this dark space fantasy. The aesthetic of this entire book is very Wednesday, but it also includes a fun grumpy/sunny pairing in the form of Gideon and Harrow. Gideon may need to wear the 9th house skull color, but she pairs the look with sunglasses and a swagger that marks her as downright irreverent. Harrow, on the other hand, is a faithful daughter of the 9th house and takes her necromancy seriously. They go from enemies to reluctant allies to friends to…well, I’ll just let you read it for yourself.
Monstress by Marjorie M. Liu and Sana Takeda
No wonder the main character is grumpy in this stunning graphic novel universe. Not only was Maika Halfwolf abducted, tortured, and experimented on by the enemy in an ongoing war between humans and arcans, she is possessed by an ancient god who has an insatiable appetite for human flesh. But her young fox friend Kipa, who becomes something of a younger sister to her over the course of the series, is filled with eternal hope and optimism, which alternately seems to tease and comfort Maika. Kipa is a perfect foil and brings out Maika even in the worst of times. Liu and Takeda definitely know what they’re doing with these two and play with all our hearts.
Emily Wilde’s Encyclopedia of Fairies by Heather Fawcett (January 10, 2022)
Emily Wilde is the leading expert on study fairies and prefers the company of books to humans. Emily is not good with people. So when Emily arrives in the village of Hrafnsvik to research her new compendium of fairy tales, she has no intention of befriending the townsfolk or interacting with her fellow rival, the maddeningly charming Wendell Bambleby, who happens to be arriving at the same time. But as she digs deeper into a mysterious and elusive group of fairies, she must face another mystery: who exactly is Wendell Bambleby, and what does he want? It’s a question that will force her to face her own desires and, for once, listen to her heart.
Here are a few more reading recommendations for Wednesday fans: