I read this book years ago, and after reading a series of tear-inducing fantasy novels, I decided I needed this cheerfulness in my life again.
Carmen got the jeans at a thrift shop. They didn’t look all that great: they were worn, dirty, and speckled with bleach. On the night before she and her friends part for the summer, Carmen decides to toss them. But Tibby says they’re great. She’d love to have them. Lena and Bridget also think they’re fabulous. Lena decides that they should all try them on. Whoever they fit best will get them. Nobody knows why, but the pants fit everyone perfectly. Even Carmen (who never thinks she looks good in anything) thinks she looks good in the pants. Over a few bags of cheese puffs, they decide to form a sisterhood and take the vow of the Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants . . . the next morning, they say good-bye. And then the journey of the pants — and the most memorable summer of their lives — begins.
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I can’t tell you how happy I am that this book was as good as I remembered. After being slightly overwhelmed with my recent reading choices, this book was a perfect dose of real life.
The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants is four stories in one, one for each of the friends as they explore their first summer apart. Each summer takes unexpected twists and forces the characters to face parts of themselves they had previously ignored. It was never hard to keep their stories straight, and I liked how the narration jumped back and forth between stories often.
Carmen’s story was incredibly relatable. She thought her summer was going to be filled with father-daughter bonding time, only to find out that her father is remarrying and that she is a guest in his new perfect life. She feels rejected, and even though she knows she’s being petty, she doesn’t want to take the high road. And you know what, I didn’t blame her, because I understood what she was feeling. Every part of her story grabbed me, until I couldn’t tell where her emotions ended and mine began.
Lena’s story was more simplistic. I loved that she is intensely introverted, and I thought that her relationship with her own beauty was a really interesting addition to her character. Like Carmen, I felt Lena’s emotions alongside her as she spends the summer with her unfamiliar relatives in Greece. Looking back on her plot line, though, I wish that a little more had happened.
Bridget’s story was the most intense. She’s the extrovert of the group, wild and determined in a wholehearted way that I associate more with fantasy protagonists than contemporary ones. While I couldn’t relate to her character as much as I could to the others, her story was written in a way that at least made me understand what was going on in her head.
I cared about Bridget, and I was genuinely worried for her as she chased down the coach she had a crush on at her soccer summer camp. Her plot line was rough and unforgiving, never romanticizing or condemning her actions, just letting the story speak for itself.
Finally, Tibby’s story was the most emotional. Stuck at a crappy job while her friends are off exploring the world, Tibby sought solace by making a documentary about her summer. She ends up befriending a preteen with cancer who pushes her to reevaluate her life. It sounds cliche, but it really wasn’t. Instead, it felt real and important, and I know that plot line will stick with me for a while.
There is something gloriously refreshing about this book. It is teenage girls being teenage girls, with no extra glamour. This isn’t a book about cute meets or perfect romances; it’s a book about real life happening to four people at once. If you’re expecting an entirely cheerful book, then I should warn you that I quietly cried through the last quarter of the book. Fundamentally, this is a book that will grab your heartstrings, for happiness and for sadness.
I would recommend this book to anyone looking for a story about friendship and real life. It isn’t solidly happy or sad, it is more complex than that. For me, it was exactly what I needed to read right now.