Summers of the Sisterhood

Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants / Second Summer of the Sisterhood / Girls in Pants (3 Book Set) by Ann Brashares

Despite the fact that a very kind author sent me a review copy of his book, and despite the fact that I’ve read the first fifty pages and found it gripping, having been burned to a crisp put me in the mood for light, fluffy reading.

Since I’ve seen The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants on cable many times at this point, and even rented the dvd when it was first available, and since my friend Erin had mentioned them several weeks ago (months, really) when the fourth book had just come out, AND since YA books are less expensive than general fiction, I ordered them all.

I’m glad I did. Like J. K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series, Brashares’s novels are not all all “kiddie lit” but well-written, interesting coming-of-age novels that happen to have teenaged protagonists. The four girls who make up the Sisterhood are all three-dimensional. None of them are perfect. All of them are unique. Their stories are every bit as interesting as any more grown up chick-lit characters, and the writing is considerably less fluffy than many. Bookstores and publishers may classify these books as YA, but to me, they’re comfort reading. You know there will ultimately be a mostly-happy ending, but you also know the characters will progress, and that not everything will be sunshine and roses.

I’m a fast reader. I received these on Wednesday evening, and am now a bit more than half way through the third book. Is it too early for me to recommend them? No. Because everyone has gone through adolescence, and that makes these novels (which, at around 300 pages each, are a satisfying length) truly universal.

If you have daughters. If you are a daughter. If you are remotely in touch with your inner teen-aged girl, you must read these books.

All the Finest Girls

by Alexandra Styron

I found this novel, the story of Adelaide “Addy” Abraham, to be an extremely difficult read, and as I’ve analyzed it, I’ve realized it was because I found the main character annoying. Addy is the daughter of an actress and an artist who are both too self-absorbed to have any clue of how to be parents, so they hire Lou, recently arrived from the Caribbean island of St. Clair, to be her nanny. As the novel opens, however, we are introduced to an adult Addy, a broken, sour person, who has come for Lou’s funeral.

The novel flips between Addy’s present – the funeral and her interactions with Lou’s family, who are polite, but don’t hail her as the visiting dignitary she imagined herself to be – and two different parts of Addy’s past, her adulthood including a sort of influenza-induced breakdown, and her childhood, which often found her pitting Lou and her parents against each other.

By the time a fragile, broken Addy makes peace with her even more broken parents, the novel has ended, and while the language used within it was vivid, the places realistic, and the characters plausible, I found the whole book to be…somehow missing something.

Or maybe I was missing something.