Rather like the titular Pants, this book was found at a thrift store. The store, whose proceeds benefit a local animal rescue, is a recent discovery, the kind of place that just might carry another pair of magical pants.
I was reading another book--a kind of bland romance--when I picked up The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants and read the first page. Then the second, the third, and so on.
The premise is simple. Carmen, Lena, Tibby, and Bridget, teenagers, and friends since early childhood, find themselves spending their first summer apart. Carmen is going to South Carolina to spend time with her father. Lena is heading for Greece to visit her grandparents. Bridget, the athlete, will be spending her summer at soccer camp in Baja California. And Tibby, well, poor Tibby is staying home, alone, and working at a soul-sucking retail job.
The story's McGuffin, the Pants, were purchased by Carmen on a whim. The day before the girls will say goodbye for the summer, they are hanging out in Carmen's room. Tibby notices the Pants; Carmen, in a moment of pity, gives them to her. At the urging of her friends, Tibby tries on the pants and they look great on her. Then the other girls try on the Pants, each finding that, despite different body types, she looks fabulous. And so the Pants were born. The four friends make up rules for the care and feeding of the pants, which include sharing them throughout the summer.
The story follows each girl's adventures without her friends, told through letters and narrative.
In general, I'm a fan of dark, angsty, gritty YA, but I enjoyed this tremendously. I most identified with Carmen and Tibby. Carmen, because, ugh, her father...just...sucks. I know; I'm a forty-ish woman. I should sympathize with dad (Al) and Lydia. But Al's behavior, springing his new fiancee and family on Carmen, pissed me off. I imagine I'm supposed to see it as bad judgment on his part. The problem is, I've known too many people like him; self-absorbed and frankly, cowardly. Though, I initially disliked his fiancee, Lydia (she of the puffy white dress and princess wedding dreams), I ended up pitying her. I kept thinking, "Yeah, wait'll he gets tired of playing house and cheats on you. He's a putz."
Tibby's friendship with Bailey was infused with a sweet and sad sense of the inevitable. While I found the premise of "dying from cancer makes you wise" a little overdone, Bailey and Tibby's friendship was compelling and poignant. The bit of mirroring with Mimi the guinea pig was particularly effective. Tibby's observations on retail employment-- dead on.
Bridget, the headstrong teen headed for disaster, didn't hold as much appeal for me (possible because I'm the antithesis of an athlete). Lena's story--her almost romance with the cute Greek boy--was the weakest story arc, but I envied her summer in Greece; painting scenic vistas, and enjoying a degree of immersion in a foreign culture (I really liked her Babi).