Brashares, Ann (2001). New York: Delacorte Press. ISBN 0-385-172933-2
Four girls, friends since before birth, face their first summer-long separation assisted by an almost magical pair of jeans, which seem to look good on each of the differently shaped friends. The girls make rules for wearing the jeans and plans to share them through the mail. Beautiful Lena and her sister spend the summer in Greece with their grandparents; thoughtful, loyal Carmen visits her father in South Carolina, cranky, reluctant big sister Tibby has to work at the local ‘Wallman’s’, and risktaking Bridget, the sporty one, goes to soccer camp in Baja California. Each girl has a turn with the pants as she faces the challenges of her new environment. Bridget must navigate the difficult road to sexual maturity and self-awareness; Lena learns about romance in an unfamiliar culture, Tibby develops a difficult relationship with a very ill young girl, and Carmen, the main narrator, must deal with her father's remarriage, and his thoughtless treatment of her in the process. The summer holds many challenges, but the loving friendship between the four girls sustains them through all.
This genuinely sweet novel features four high school friends remain connected during a far-flung summer apart through their shared custody of a magically adaptable pair of jeans.
This is a very charming book. The divided plot set-up, with the four disparate girls and locales raises critical concern that two-dimensional stereotypes will populate a generic coming-of-age tale, but each girl is presented realistically, much aided by the epistolary, first person narratives. The difficult situations—first sex; the death of a friend--are handled without either exaggeration or flippancy. The Greek setting is very nicely described and contributes to the slightly fantastical nature of the pants story. It’s interesting that the exploration of Carmen’s unexpressed anger at her absent father is repeated in several of the ‘Chick Lit’ books read for this blog. The best feature of the book, and the thing which draws so many girls to the series is the warmth and love, not unrealistic but rarely depicted, which endures among the girls.
About the author
Born in 1967, Ann Brasheres grew up in the Virginia/Maryland area where the Travelling Pants books are set. She went to Sidwell Friends, where the Obama girls go, and then Barnard College. She now lives in New York with her husband and several children.
Chick Lit/Epistolary Novel (Genreflecting)
Why does it take so long for Carmen to get mad at her dad?
What’s the connection between Bridget’s recklessness and the death of her mother?
Describe the relationship between Tibby and Bailey.
Reading Level/Interest Age
Best Books for Young Adults—ALA. Very popular and recommended by my sophomore class readers
Student Recommendations; ALA List