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I have been desperate to read this book for a while now. It is the final instalment of the four-book Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants series. I read the first three in a two-week or so period from the library whilst living in Canada, and upon moving back have been unable to find the fourth in a library, and being particularly broke wasn't able to buy it. When I got my first Amazon voucher from Dooyoo, it was the first item off my wishlist into the basket, I so wanted to find out how the series ended!
For those of you who haven't read any of the books, or seen the first movie (the second has just been released in America, can't wait to see it!), I will explain a little about the Traveling Pants series. Yes, I know, traveling pants does sound kind of weird, and definitely very childish, but let me tell you - having read these for the first time over the age of 21, I have enjoyed them way more than any adult book I have read in a long time! They are aimed at teenagers, but they are in a class above most of the teen girl books you will see out there. The themes are more mature, but handled well, and as the series goes on the themes of the books grow with the characters involved.
The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants is actually a group of four close friends - Bridget, Carmen, Tibby and Lena - who were all born in the same month and have grown up together, their mothers being friends. They are very different - Bridget (Bee) athletic and brave, Carmen sassy and temperamental, Tibby quirky and creative and Lena the shy, artistic Greek - yet have become a kind of family for each other, as none of them have particularly strong ties to their own.
One day out shopping, the girls find a pair of great jeans. First one tries them on, and they look great, then another wants to give them a try. Eventually they all try on the jeans and they fit and look amazing on all four, which is pretty incredible considering that Bridget is tall and slim with a supermodel build and Carmen is a curvy Latina. Amazed, they buy the jeans and vow to share them that summer, the first apart of their whole lives. They make a list of rules, including the particularly gross (when you discover how much these jeans are put through, and how long they have them) rule that they must never be washed, or they could lose their "magic".
And so the girls' summers go on in this fashion, with them taking it in turns to wear the jeans, and then mailing them to the next, in a way to feel "together" while they are apart. This goes on for three summers, and so here we are at the fourth book, which sees the girls near enough grown up, all college girls.
Despite being away for college, none of the girls particularly want to stay home for summer, and all have their own plans in different parts of the country, and indeed Bee's case, world. She opts to take an archaeology course in Turkey for school credit, as she refuses to sit around pining for her ever-absent boyfriend Eric who is coaching at a soccer camp in Mexico. Tibby stays in New York City, working at a video store and working on her script for her screenwriting course. Lena takes a summer class at art school in Rhode Island, and Carmen is persuaded by college friend Julia into going to Vermont to a performing arts programme.
Of course, it wouldn't be a very interesting book if everything went to plan and they all had a lovely time! Without giving anything away (as doing so would probably mean giving away details of the earlier books too!), each girl goes through a set-back which tests them but shows how they are growing as people. As a reader you do feel quite proud of them at times, corny as that sounds, as their characters definitely develop over the series and they begin to make smarter decisions.
I thoroughly enjoyed this book and despite the fact it's over 300 pages, it is quick read and a book which I could not put down! I was quite sad when it ended, because I had enjoyed the series so much, but it really loved the ending because it made me feel like I knew all the characters would be okay, and it wasn't necessary to keep going.
You do, however, need to have read the first books if you want to try this one. The author assumes knowledge of the previous books and doesn't waste time recapping before she gets into the story. For me this is great, I don't like getting to book four only to spend half of it finding out what I already know!
Like I mentioned earlier, this is also a teen book with a lot more integrity than most. Yes, they talk about boys sometimes - they are teen girls, it would be unrealistic if they didn't - but the main themes in the books are friendship and character and finding your place in the world. The fact that the girls are so different means that you are likely to find one you relate with the most - I would have to admit to being a bit sarcastic like Tibby although I'd love to be fearless like Bee - and the author seems to be sending the message to young girls that being any of these is okay, because they all achieve such a lot throughout the series.
I would definitely recommend reading this series. They are heartwarming without being sickening, and touch on teen issues without being immature. If I ever have a daughter I would like to give her a set of these books when she is old enough to appreciate them (I would say around 12+ due to reading level and content).
You can find the box set for £16.94 on Amazon.co.uk (there is another box set on there but that only has the first three books), and individual books retail for around £4.50 (each varies). I've just been delighted to find out that Ann Brashares has also written a book for her grown-up Sisterhood fans (unrelated to the series itself) which I will be sure to check out and review in due course.