Author: Ann Brashares
Publisher: Delacorte Press (Random House)
Released: Jan. 2009
Genre: Middle Grade
When I started reading this book, I was looking out for whose children Ama, Jo and Polly were. I thought, because of the subtitle, "The Sisterhood Grows," that this would be set after the original four had kids, and their kids get together. So I was a little thrown when I couldn't see any connection. After everything is explained though (on page 28), I got really into the story for itself.
Ama, Jo and Polly live in Bethesda, where they've heard about the legendary foursome held together by the magic of a pair of pants that fit them all perfectly. They have been friends since third grade, but recently their friendship has been falling apart as Ama and Jo find new friends and go in different directions. They want to stay together - they value the friendship they've created - but it seems they have nothing in common anymore. The summer before they enter high school, the three of them each have their own adventures, but at the end, they realize that some friendships will not die no matter what happens.
Although the girls in the story are almost in high school, I'd call this a Middle Grade book because the friendships and relationships seem to be from a younger girl's point of view. The girls are in the process of growing up, and they retain some of the characteristics of younger girls - though by the end of the story, they each have grown in different ways so that they could be considered young adults! I love how each one goes through a journey to sort of discover herself. Each experience seems so real, and I felt along with the characters as they experienced despair, sorrow, joy, and exhilaration.
I love how Ann Brashares did this, the same way she did the Sisterhood books, that there are three separate stories, which intertwine at some points, and especially at the beginning and the end of the book. In 3 Willows, there are not many letters back and forth because they're not passing around the pants or anything like that, and besides that, because this friendship is one that needs saving, not one that only needs strengthening. It's a very different perspective on friendships than in Sisterhood: there it was about the beauty of friendship and the ties that hold true friends together. Here, it's about the effects of time on friendship and the ties that hold true friends together. OK, so there is a common theme - but from different angles.
One thing I don't understand - if this is meant as a sequel to the Sisterhood books, it seems a little backwards. Readers and fans of the original four were teenagers when they read them, so by now they're adults - not middle grade girls! I just don't understand why a sequel would go back in time.
But anyway, I loved the book for itself, so that's that!