Review #29: Sisterhood Everlasting by Ann Brashares

I was a huge fan of the Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants books growing up. I first encountered Carmen, Tibby, Bridget and Lena when I was maybe twelve, and followed their lives until (what I thought was) the end of the series a few years later. These books are really wonderful for many reasons, chief among those the organic, powerful depiction of female friendship. I always found myself wanting a group just like the one portrayed in the book. I’m a sucker for stories like these—the show Pretty Little Liars, for example, or movies like Now and Again are infinitely more appealing to me than shows that show women as catty, boy-crazy bitches. Give me a story where the love story is between female friends, and I’m in.

These books are also great because the four main characters are all individually awesome—they’re all have distinct, unique personalities, but there’s something in each of them that I could identify with. Carmen is the feisty, maternal one; Bridget is the sporty free spirit; Lena is artistic and shy; Tibby is snarky and tough. I loved these girls equally, wishing I could be each of them by turns.

Anyway. Enough with the gushing. If you haven’t read the first four books in the series, no fear! (Although you totally should). It’s not necessary to read them before reading Sisterhood Everlasting, the fifth and final book that was written for an adult audience—essentially, girls like me who grew up with the girls and wanted to find out what happened to them later in life. You’ll be able to appreciate the story regardless of whether you know the background information. Note that it’s difficult to discuss the plot without giving away major spoilers, but I’ll do my best.

The book takes place when the girls are twenty-nine. Bridget is living in San Francisco with Eric, her long-time boyfriend; Carmen is an engaged actress living in New York City; Tibby lives in Australia with her boyfriend Brian; Lena is a professor at Rhode Island School of Design. None of them are truly happy. They’ve all kept in touch sporadically, but have never been able to recapture the magic of the four summers of the original books. That’s why they all accept without question when Tibby sends the other three tickets to Greece, inviting them to join her a few weeks later. Unfortunately, when they get there, things are not as they expected. The rest of the novel follows them in their journeys to understand a woman they once thought of as a sister, and to understand themselves. For Carmen, this means reevaluating her priorities; for Bridget, it means running away from the life she’s created; for Lena, it means giving up her pride and tracking down Kostos, the man she’s loved since she was sixteen.

This book was devastating and beautiful and I absolutely could not put it down. It’s about 200-ish pages and I literally read it in four hours. Again, it’s hard for me to tell how a newcomer to the series would feel, but as a long-time fan, I was completely and totally invested from the first page. I care about these characters so much, and I was rooting for them so hard to find happiness. The ending is very bittersweet, but everyone ends up, in a way, where they should be. I was glad that my girls finally found what they were looking for. This book was a difficult but powerful (and final) way to close out their stories.

I think my biggest issue with the book (and it’s weird, because I actually liked this aspect of it when reading it) is that all of the girls are completely stagnant characters. The only one who’s changed in any significant way is Carmen, who went from being a sassy, smart chick to a vapid, superficial bimbo. This seriously pissed me off, because she was my favorite of the four originally, and I couldn’t stand her here. On a more positive (ish) note, Bridget and Tibby and Lena were essentially the same people they were in the first four books. They’re even still in love with the same men (which, seriously? Three out of four of them hung onto their high school sweethearts?). I liked this as a long-time fan of the books, because it felt comfortable and familiar, like catching up with old friends. On the other hand, it was really hard to buy that they would literally be the exact same people, with the exact same issues, as they did ten years before. I’m certainly not the same person I was at sixteen (similar, but changed in pretty significant ways). It was kind of unbelievable that they’d have changed so little. This was problematic, because some of their behavior (Bee’s and Lena’s especially) was understandable for a teenager, but weirdly juvenile for an almost-thirty-year-old. If I took their ages out of the equation, though, and pictured them as a little younger, it worked better for me.

Overall, I loved loved loved this. Highly recommended, especially to women like me who grew up with the girls, and want to find out where they ended up.

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