Author: Ann Brashares
Publisher: Dell Laurel-Leaf (Random House)
After reading some adult Ann Brashares (The Last Summer (of You and Me) and My Name Is Memory), I went back to the books that introduced her to me - the Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants series. I loved the characters of this series from the first time I read the books, and I've re-read them individually a few times since then. But now I got all four books and settled into a Sisterhood marathon. And it was great! Reading them in order, all at once, made me see how the four friends really grew and developed over the years - and how the Pants did too!
Four friends about to go separate ways for the summer, the first time they've ever been apart from each other, find a magical pair of pants that fits all of them, despite their very different shapes. They name them the "Traveling Pants" and mail them back and forth over the summer in order to stay in touch with each other. At the end of the summer, they gather and record their summer experiences - on the Pants! They continue doing this for four summers, through the summer after their freshman year at college, and the Pants travel as far as Greece and Turkey and as close to home as - well, home. They see many different kinds of experiences, from the very happy to the very sad. And they help the girls learn lessons about love, about life, and mostly about friendship.
The girls' friendship is a great one to read about. They're four entirely different girls, with different views on life, different attitudes, different aspirations. But isn't that the way real friendships go? Of course, there are girls who gravitate toward other girls who are just like them, but real, true, long-lasting friends are a mix of differences. (Take a superficial example of my friends - one is Sefardi, one is Lubavitch, one is total Yeshivish, one is total Lakewood, and then there's me. And we've been together since first grade, and we're still going strong!)
As individuals, I liked each of the girls, too. Their personalities stay constant over the course of four books (no mean feat for the author!) even as they change and grow. I love each girl, different as they are, for a different part of her personality - Tibby's sarcastic outlook, Carmen's cheer and bubbliness, Lena's quiet grace, Bridget's vivacity and liveliness. And I could see parts of myself in parts of them, so I totally related to all the things they go through. And the things they go through - what a range of experiences! And such difficult situations, too. Thank goodness they had the Pants to keep them grounded and on track!
The device of the Pants connecting them works wonderfully throughout the four books. In the first book, it's a pretty strong character - the first time each girl gets the Pants, something bad happens, and the second time, something magical happens. By the fourth book, the pattern is less obvious and there's less stress on the Pants (until the end, that is). But that makes sense, considering what the Pants teach the girls in the fourth book.
It's a great growing-up series, dealing with so many issues. I love the series, and I'm pretty sure this is not the last time I'll be reading it!