Saturday, February 23, 2008

The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants by Ann Brashares

I read this book as part of the Banned Book Challenge and the A to Z Challenge. I found it on a banned book list with no explanation about why it was banned or where the incident occurred. I tried researching it on the web and could only find the title on a number of lists. I suspect that it was challenged in either a public or school library by parents afraid of the sexuality in the book. This is a book marketed for teens and young adults.

It is the story of four life long friends: Lena, Tibby, Bridget, and Carmen. They are teenagers who are spending a summer apart. They find a pair of old jeans in a thrift store. Magically, the jeans fit each girl perfectly, even though they are very different body types. These become the Traveling Pants for their magical qualities. Throughout the summer, each girl wears the pants for two weeks and then sends them on to another girl. The novel goes back and forth among the four girls documenting their summer and their time with the pants. It is the first of a series that I have seen many teen girls reading. It was also made into a movie.

STRENGTHS OF THE SISTERHOOD OF THE TRAVELING PANTS: It is a very positive story of friendship among these girls. They are supportive of each other and do not put each other down. Each girl has a crisis while wearing the pants, but the others are supportive. Tibby's crisis is especially heart-rending as she meets, and spends time with, a younger girl who is dying of leukemia. I think that the sexuality in Bridget's story is probably the reason for the banning of this book. However, I found it to be a strength of the book because it was not graphic, and the author dealt extremely well with Bridget's emotions and her feelings of loss and regret. I thought it would really open the door to an honest discussion with a teenage girl about sexuality. I also liked how the author moved between stories so you were kept in touch with all four girls over the summer.

WEAKNESSES OF THE SISTERHOOD OF THE TRAVELING PANTS: I was not really fond of Lena's summer story. She spent the summer in Greece with her grandparents and feel in love with a local boy. Through a misunderstanding, her grandparents thought the boy had assaulted her. I felt this part was a bit contrived and didn't match with the strength these girls displayed throughout the book.

Overall, I'd give this book four stars. I would absolutely allow my daughter to read it when she's a teen. I think there's a lot of positive messages in this about the value of girls' friendships. It could also lead to some excellent discussions of values and choices. If anyone has more details on the banned issue, I'd love to know. I'd also be interested in knowing how teenagers have reacted to this one. So if you are, or have, a teenager, let me know.


Carrie said...

Interesting. I've seen the movie but haven't read the book although I am a bit curious about it. (I didn't really care for the movie.) I had not heard that it was a banned book and am also curious as to the reason why. If it really is, then they ban books for very curious reasons.

alisonwonderland said...

i really enjoyed this entire series, as did my now 17yo daughter. we both saw the film version too (which was really quite different from the book).

one of the things that i appreciated about the book was that it portrayed real-life emotional consequences (and not pregnancy, which no teen thinks is going to happen to them) for Bridget's sexual activity.

BTW my church adult women's book group also read this book to celebrate the concept of sisterhood.

Maw Books said...

I have this book on my bookshelf but haven't read it yet. I look forward to finally getting around to it.

Framed said...

Great review. I thought this was a great book for teens and I enjoyed it also.

Jeane said...

I've heard a lot about this book but had no idea it was banned! How interesting. It makes me more curious to read it.

BookGal said...

Carrie - I haven't seen the movie but I may Netflix it out of curiosity.

Alison - I never would have thought of it for a church group. What a great idea!

maw - I'd love to read a review of it.

framed - We agree on this one.

jeane - I didn't know it was banned either until I found it on a list for the Banned Book Challenge.

Stephanie said...

Great review! I read the first two in the series last summer and just now finished number three (and will post about it soon). Have you seen the movie? The Lena storyline is very different in the movie, so you might really enjoy it. Overall, I enjoyed the movie almost as much as the book and am looking forward to the second movie (which covers books 2-4)this summer.

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