The Traveling Pants give a lesson in friendship

May 17, 2004, midnight | By Caitlin O'Brien | 16 years, 8 months ago

Summer is just around the corner, and, with all the free time you'll have on your hands, sitting down with a good book may be a good idea. The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants by Anne Brashares is the quintessential book for a fun summer read. Not only is it about summer, but it's also an entertaining tale of four best friends and their adventures during their first summer apart.

Bridget, Carmen, Tibby and Lena are four teenage girls spending their first summer away from each other. While at Carmen's house on their last afternoon together, they find a pair of jeans she had bought from a thrift store that, despite their drastically different body types, miraculously fits all of them perfectly. These pants are deemed the "traveling pants" when the girls decide to send these seemingly magical jeans to each other throughout the summer. In passing these pants around, they are sure to stay best friends no matter what kind of wild adventures they have.

Sure, the underlying theme of everlasting friendship is a bit sappy, but the cute writing style and different story lines keep you engrossed in the novel until the very end. The four different stories are told simultaneously, with a bit of one girl's summer saga ending in a dramatic moment, at which point, she writes a letter to one of her friends, and then their story picks up from where it last ended. By intertwining each of their tales, Brashares keeps the reader guessing.

All of these adventures consist of things that are important to teenage girls of all sorts. Each character fits into a certain stereotype so that every kind of reader will have a person to identify with. The pants' original owner, Carmen, is a sassy Puerto Rican girl with a hot temper who spends her summer re-acquainting herself with her father. Bridget, the tall, blonde jock, goes to soccer camp in Baja California for the summer. Balancing Bridget's extroverted personality is Lena, a stunningly beautiful, shy girl who spends her summer with her sister and grandparents in Greece. Lastly is Tibby, the eccentric, plain-looking girl with a penchant for film making who is left alone to work at Wallman's, a store in her hometown.

Each of these girls learns some sort of universal lesson that we have all heard at least one point during our adolescence. But forget the typical morality tales brought forth in many teen novels. The "traveling pants" don't teach the girls anything about drugs, alcohol or teen pregnancy (though sex definitely plays a major role in the girls' lives). These pants teach lessons like "don't grow up too fast" or "don't judge a book by its cover." Thankfully these messages are rather subtle, so the reader is not left feeling as though the story is simple-minded and corny.

The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants is a fun and exciting book that is impossible to put down. Although the girls each spend their summers engrossed in their own separate escapades, they all come back to being best friends. Their love for each other is comparable to that within a family. Despite the conflicts and controversies, they will always be friends first, which is the most important message that the pants bring to them.

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