exactly that

Book cover is a green background with a pair of blue jeans. Title in blue reads "The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants" -Ann Brashares-I had the pleasure and delight to engage in a series I haven’t read before. My addiction to YA literature tends to disappoint me often in many areas. Even when I find myself pleased with the characters, the writing, and the story, often I find something lacking: Women’s stories that are truly women’s stories. Stories that don’t revolve around men. You know, the story that says it is about a woman, but it is really about the men in her life…

With The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants, by Ann Brashares, I found a nice balance of women’s stories that involved figuring out themselves, their relationships to each other, and how any men at all fit into their lives, and how. I find the book series to be heavily heterocentric…which is something else that I think is missing from YA lit, or perhaps I am missing out on the right kind of lit that suits my fancy. *shrugs*

The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants is about four young women, Bridget, Carmen, Lena, and Tibby, who have almost literally grown up together, since their mothers were in a laughable maternity aerobics class one September before they were born. They have forged a sisterhood long before the eponymous Pants found their way from the thrift store into Carmen’s closet. The book begins at a time when these young women have grown up almost as one person, and now for the first time, they are spending a summer apart, which will mean learning how to learn to be themselves (I meant to write it that way). Three of the four girls will venture off to different parts of the world, leaving Tibby alone in Washington, D.C. with a summer job.

Each girl’s (or young woman’s) journey forces them to confront parts of themselves that they are not used to facing, with the exception of Bridget. Bridget has lost a parent at a young age to depression (so far in the first book it isn’t specified exactly how), and has seemingly spent the rest of her life so far rebounding. Her change is more internal as she learns to balance what she thinks she wants, and how to deal with it once she gets it, arguably much too young to achieve it. She is a powerful goddess of a young woman who knows how to reach her goals and is self aware, but not really aware enough of herself, realistically. I was rather impressed with how Brashares dealth with this topic, as sensitive of one as it is. She faced it on, and only slightly shied away from some parts of it. I have a feeling that the parts that weren’t faced head on will rear back later in the series (without giving too much away).

The book jumps around to the four stories in segments, giving a taste of each young woman’s story before moving on, as they pass the Pants between them. It gives you just enough story to start to make you uncomfortable from a feminist perspective before revealing how each one of them learns to grow and cope (and apologize or stand up for herself).

I will admit to being a little bit in love with Carmen’s character, thinking back to myself as a teenager, and being the girl who didn’t know how to tell someone that she was angry because she had been hurt by someone who was supposed to love and protect her. Carmen represents how easy it is to get angry at the wrong people because we know that they will keep loving us rather than risk admitting that we are afraid someone will take love away from us if we reveal how much they hurt us.

Aside from a chronic use of the word “lame” which, grates on me to no end, and another topic that I discussed in a forthcoming post at FWD/Forward, I found the book incredibly enjoyable. I want to read more stories like TSotTP, and will continue through the series, partly because I want to see what happens to Bridget specifically.

It gets a hearty stamp of approval (unlike some other books I review here), and will be adding to the home library.

Who’s read it? Care to share?


Comments on: "The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants" (5)

  1. Oooh, I’ve read them! [And I will try very hard not to be spoilerish.] I think, of the four stories overall, that Bridget’s is the best (even with some content I found rather problematic in the 4th book), while Lena’s is the worst. While the first book seems well-balanced between friendship and sisterhood and general life, the series struck me as very boy-focused by the end. Overall, though, I agree that it’s great to read a series that focuses on four female protagonists (rather than the unfortunate common YA trope of 2 boys, 1 girl), and the fact that they are well-written and engaging and have socio-economic and ethnic range (though you’re right that the heteronormativity is rather sad) is encouraging.

    If you haven’t already, may I recommend Tamora Pierce’s Circle of Magic/Circle Opens series? I really liked the fact that there are 3 girls/1 boy (to begin with; the second series follows each of the original characters solo as they find new apprentices), plus also cool magic! And, particularly by the stand-alone book at the end (The Will of the Empress), a very clear and positive lesbian relationship (with a few other, more subtle, gay and lesbian characters earlier on).

  2. Pizza Diavola said:

    I find the book series to be heavily heterocentric…which is something else that I think is missing from YA lit, or perhaps I am missing out on the right kind of lit that suits my fancy.

    Have you read Malinda Lo’s Ash? It’s a YA lesbian re-telling of the Cinderella story and is reportedly quite good (I put it on hold from the library, but there are a couple people in line ahead of me).

  3. bme~ I am very much interested in Bridget’s story. Of all of them I think she is the one I want the most to know (and in a way, feel like I do). I am also always looking for new titles to check out, so thank you for the suggestion. I don’t think you are the first person to suggest that I would like Pierce because I liked the Harry Potter series so much.

    PD, I may have to check that one out. I have a bad habit of buying books. Bad me!

    I also missed the part of that sentence where I meant to clarify that a range outside of heternormativity is something I want to see more of, until you quoted it. Oops.

  4. I can confirm that Ms Lo’s Ash is indeed tasty. There’s a bit in particular that makes the wordcrafter in me bounce with delight. In Justine Larbalestier’s Liar (assuming that we can trust anything) the protagonist is bi and/or pansexual. For a rarity a boy protagonist is bi/pansexual in Christopher Barzak’s One for Sorrow.

    And I wouldn’t mention them if I wouldn’t recommend them. :)

  5. “I have a bad habit of buying books. Bad me!”

    If you’re going to spend your monies in excess, my thought is, always better books than anything else…except maybe food.

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