Book Review (Spoilers): The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants by: Ann Brashares
Backstory: Recently, I have been trying to re-watch “Gilmore Girls” for the new Netflix special that is coming out soon. The show is still awesome by the way. While re-watching it, I realized that I wanted to watch more Alexis Bledel stuff, and I did. I watched the movie, The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants, and thought it was pretty decent. It’s based off a book series that is a New York Times bestseller, so I decided to give it a try. I bought the series and finished the first book a few days ago.
Synopsis: Four best friends are spending their first summer apart. Miraculously, they find a pair of jeans that fits all four of them and through these pants, they are able to connectand keep in touch with each other even though they are miles apart.
Review: Right off the bat, the book offended me. On the first page of the prologue, it lightly mentions for some no real reason that Koreans eat dog. I found this unnecessary and as an Asian-American, I have grown up hearing enough dog-eater jokes to be genuinely upset. It was only the first page, so I braced myself and continued reading the prologue. As I read on, I realized that this supposedly popular book does not age well with time. There is a emphasis on how different each one of these girls are but they are painfully so stereotypically different. Every single girl is in their own box and there’s no breaking out of it. Additionally, the book is so focused on defining the bodies of each girl. Well, it does have this important theme of four different girls in personality and bodies fitting in to the same pair of jeans, but… You see, the perfectly pretty one (Lena) has big feet. The sporty one (Bridget) one has wide shoulders. The edgy documentarian (Tibby) is flat chested. The one with a Latina mother (Carmen) has big boobs and a big butt. Do you get where I am going? In this day and age, where girls are taught they they can be anything, that they can break out of the mold and do more, that they are more than their bodies… this book digresses. Maybe, I am overthinking it or maybe, I read this book while growing up in the wrong generation to fully enjoy it.
Review Continue: It was hard moving on from the prologue, but after some nudging from friends, I decided to finally finish this book and give it a real review. I stopped one more time but picked it up again. The book has to get through a lot. Many things happen to these four girls during their summer apart. The book starts each chapter with a quote and as the book progresses, sometimes the quotes are from characters inside the story. Each girl narrates their own adventure and in between the adventures, the girls hand-write letters to the next person who will be receiving the jeans. Honestly, it was a bit too much for me. Out of the four girls, I only found Carmen likable. I liked Bailey as well, but she is not one of the main girls. It’s hard reading something when you don’t feel for the characters. Towards the end, I just wanted to skip to Carmen’s narration, but readers aren’t told beforehand when the narration will switch.
More Review: The book tries to be deep with the beautiful Lena having trouble falling in love because so many boys have fallen for her solely because of her looks which has cause her to be jaded. (I have a friend in real life, like this. So, Lena became a bit relatable after this was explained.) Then, out of nowhere, Lena falls for Kostos. She initially dislikes him after meeting him once because it was a set up she was not down for. Okay, I get that. HOWEVER! Then, she doesn’t talk to the guy ever yet randomly catches feels for him because they share a favorite spot and he kindly doesn’t rat her out when she paints him to be a bad person. Oh, and here’s the cherry on top – she falls for him after hearing about his sad childhood of losing his parents and brother. Oh my gosh! That is pity, not love. I actually liked this story in the movie. I was seriously disappointed. I guess it tried. Anyways, the book tries hard to be deep again with Tibby meeting a little girl dying from leukemia. Bailey changes edgy Tibby’s outlook on life and teaches her not to judge people based on looks. In the end, Tibby goes on this short rant as to what happiness is and it was eh. I liked Carmen’s story about family, anger, and trust. I felt enlightened by Bridget’s story about high functioning depression, but the whole 15 years old and 19 years old had me rolling my eyes in disapproval. I am not for statutory rape no matter how in love or how grown the younger one (usually girl) is depicted. It will always be wrong in my head no matter how cute and romantic it is painted. The book tries, but… I don’t know. It didn’t tug on any of my heart strings.
Book v Movie: I have to say – I think I like the movie more. The reason why I read the book is because I thought the movie was alright. The movie cuts out and changes a lot of stuff which I think was a great decision. It made the movie decent. I preferred the set up of Kostos and Lena’s story in the movie so much more. Their families hated each other, so there was a Romeo and Juliet feel while in the book. While in the book, Kostos is the golden child adored by everyone including Lena’s grandmother who wanted to set them up. The gradual build up of their relationship actually happened in 119 minute movie unlike the 294 page book. Effie, Lena’s younger sister, was cut from the movie which made sense. Moreover, I thought it was great that in the movie, all four of them were there for Carmen’s father’s wedding. In the book, Carmen makes the decision with pushing from Tibby and Bailey to go by herself which loses some sentimental points. Plus, when Bridget becomes depressed. All four girls visit her at her house in the movie while in the book, only Lena can make it to her in Baja because she is still at soccer camp. Additionally, in the movie, it looks like Bridget is able to move on after Eric talks openly about how he feels while it does nothing to help book Bridget which once again loses sentimental points. By the way, Eric’s mother is Mexican in the book, but I guess America Ferrera already filled up the Hispanic quota for the movie. Well, I guess the movie gets brownie points for casting Leonard Nam as Brian McBrian though… I am straying. All in all, the movie had more scenes of the four girls going through hardships together which was more impactful than the book which showed this girl helping another girl and then re-telling it to the group. You get me? I think the only thing I liked more in the book is the way Bridget’s depression is approached because there were more hints as to her having high functioning depression. Anyways, I might watch the second movie if I have a lot of free time on my hands and if it comes my way. As for the book series, I really don’t know. I feel like I should since I started it and have the books, but I didn’t love love the first book. Plus, I sort of finished it with the help of Wikipedia.
Final comment: I was on a roll of reading a lot of book series and buying the next book after finishing the previous book. At times, it pissed me off while I waited for it to ship. I did not want to wait anymore. That is why, I bought the whole entire series for The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants before starting it, and I kind of regret it. Having the whole series was a bit of a motivation to at least finish the first book and try to love it. Like I said, there were things I like, for example, Carmen’s story, Bailey’s maturity and take on life, and a bit of Bridget’s story. Plus, it created an alright movie, but there is just so many other books to read. I rather spend time reading those other books than continuing with this series. Will I continue this series in the future… maybe? As for now, nope. It wasn’t terribly bad, but I didn’t like it as much as I thought I would and had hoped.