Monday, January 4, 2016

Review of Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants by Anna Brashares



My Rating: 5 out of 5 stars.

Official Book Summary:

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.
When we moved this winter, I rediscovered the entire box of the series. Amazingly despite the fact that I have read almost every book in my collection of over 700 books, I have never read this series! The novels were even still in their original box packaging untouched. In the same way that the 'Sisters' found the pants, I found the series. 

The novel starts out with one of the main characters, Carmen, narrating from first person. 

Carmen is sharp-witted, sensitive, and the writer  of the group. We're then introduced to the other Sisters. The sensitive artist is Lena; she also happens to be extremely beautiful and shy. Tibby is the eclectic one; she's interested in making movies. Lastly there's Bridget. She's a soccer star who is so full of energy. The girls have been friends for their entire life; their mothers befriended one another during a pregnancy class. 

Carmen goes shopping with Lena one time and buys an old pair of jeans at a thrift store. As she's ready to throw them out, Tibby speaks up and likes them. Carmen, without thinking, gives them to her to try on. Magically the pants fit not only Tibby, but Carmen (who was pushed into trying them on). Not only them, but Bridget and Lena, as well. The 'Pants' somehow fit them all wonderfully. Almost like the pants are magic themselves. 

It's the first summer that the girls will be away from one another, so they decide to share the Pants throughout their adventure. Each girl will wear the jeans then send them onto the next girl. Each girl goes on an adventure so far away from one another, but they still manage to share their summer together through the pants and letter-writing.

Lena and her younger sister, Effie, spent the summer at her grandparents' house in Greece. Lena's sister, Effie is outgoing and lively; she's so much unlike Lena. I loved seeing Lena and Effie juxtaposition one another throughout their adventures. It was really nice to see the connection that they shared, even if they're opposites. 

As Lena spends more time in Greece, she bonds more with her grandfather that she affectionately calls her Bapi.  Maybe it's because Southern Italians are so close to Greeks, but Lena's grandfather reminded me so much of my beloved Nonno. 

Greece really brought out Lena's spirit and her artistry skills. The magic of the pants and Effie's sound love advice even gives Lena the confidence to confess her love to Kostas. I really loved seeing how the girls were the strongest when together or when wearing the pants. I really thought it was beautiful. 

Carmen goes to spend the summer with her estranged father, Al, in South Carolina. Her father left her and her mother when she was little, so she has such high hopes for their summer. 

Much to her surprise, her father doesn't live alone like she thought he did. He's engaged to a woman with two children from a previous marriage and they're planning on getting married by the end of summer. Carmen is half Puerto Rican, but favors it the most over her father's side. Carmen slowly feels like she's suffocating; partially from the feeling that that she does not belong in their 'picture perfect' family, the subtle racism from her step-mother, and from the fact that her supposed summer with her dad is nothing like she planned.

One night after looking at her picturesque new family, Carmen snaps and throws a rock through her father's window. She packs all of her things and heads back to Maryland. Tibby and her mother work through 

Carmen's summer to me was easily the second most heart-breaking.  There's something about the idea of an estranged father moving onto another family that really broke my heart We see Carmen's idea of her estranged father slowly fall apart. Of course, her best friends are there to help her recover. By the end of her novel, we're seeing a new side of Carmen that comes to grips with the issues caused from her father's abandonment.

I truly loved how the girls -- despite their vast differences -- were so unwavering in their love and affection for one another.  A lot of times in novels geared to teenaged girls, it's usually friendships laced with cattiness, backstabbing, etc. 

This novel was about friendship. Even when we saw the girls voice their concerns about the distance from one another: I never doubted in their friendship. There was no cattiness; just love, growing up, and what it means to find your own self identity as a young girl.

Overall, this was an excellent book! I cannot wait to read the rest of the series. I also loved how serious topics -- such as losing your mother, parent abandonment, first love, illness, etc. -- were written in a way that was able to connect with you. The story didn't lean on typical arcs like a cliche. I really loved how serious and realistic topics were weaved into the girls' lives.

If you're looking for something that captures girl friendship, identity, growing up and serious topics in an attainable way: than this may be ideal for you! It's able to take you into the shoes of each girl... and in the end, you may just wish you had your own pair of special pants to share with a lifelong best friend.

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