If you plan to read this book, please do before reading on as I could not find a way to write about it without spoiling.
I think I have mentioned before just how awesome library for Kindle is. It has significantly increased my reading because I can easily read on my lunch break and it eliminates the short thick paperbacks that have been my reading medium for years which are great but not conducive to knitting. Last week I was browsing the "new additions" section of the website and happened upon Sisterhood Everlasting, the new installment of the Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants series by Ann Brashares. As a devoted fan of both the books and the movies I was floored. How could there be a new book I didn't know about?
I curled up with my kindle and started reading. The book begins ten years after the last one left off and is set in all of the seasons except for summer. It took all of four pages for me to really get back into this world. I felt like the book was respecting the fact that the readers had grown up. The last one was published the week I finished my first year of college, putting the girls just after their freshman year. Now, five years later, I am living out on my own and so is the sisterhood.
But Brashares takes this happy return and turns it completely on its head. The first sign that something was wrong was that Tibby (my favorite character and the one I self-identified with) was absent. None of the chapters were told from her point of view even though all of the girls were scattered. And then the floor drops out from under the reader -- Tibby dies (I told you there'd be spoilers). I started crying. Not great wracking sobs, but just tears streaming down my face as I tried to read. And I was absolutely furious. I hated Brashares. How could she do this to me? How could she kill someone who had been there for me during all of my self-indulgent high school no-one-understands-me days?
You don't think it could get any worse and then it does. For the majority of the book the remaining girls must deal with the fact that it appears Tibby took her own life. And that's where the magic of this story lies. It's not in the final resolution that brings about a bitter-sweet happy ending. It's in the reality of the struggle. Something Brashares has done well in these books is bring a reflection of the hell that is being a teenage girl to life through her characters. They may be very privileged white girls (seriously, who else can just run off to Greece to deal with their problems), but they experience everything that haunts the lives of her readers.
I spent the majority of the book silently crying while I read. I struggled right along with Lena, Carmen, and Bee as they tried to put the pieces back together. But it was also refreshing when I was done. The story was well-written and I could not have asked for a better return, even though I hated the journey. My only request is that this please be the end of the story. I don't think I can return to any more heartbreak for the lives of these three. As is a popular saying these days, this book gave me so many feelings! It reminded my why I should throw a more "serious" read into my rotation and reminded me why I stick to sci-fi and fantasy for the most part. Some things hit way too close to home to be able to stay objective.
If you did read this review and are on the fence about the book, I encourage you to give it a try. Where the original four retain some sort of light heartedness for at least one character, this one loses all humor and takes a much more serious turn, something I think was done out of respect for the emotional maturity of the original fans.