Who didn’t fall in love with these books? As with most books made into movies, the books are definitely better, in no small part because the movies leave out some of the best story lines and don’t handle the character development well, which is part of the key to the series.
The books are about four best friends, “The Novembers,” who have known each other forever (their mothers became friends while pregnant) and have never been separated for long. But the first summer that they will all spend apart arrives and they worry that they will grow apart. But not to worry, as they discover a pair of jeans (The Traveling Pants) that magically fit each of them despite their different sizes and heights. They agree to share the pants, establishing set rules and passing the jeans back and forth amongst them to ensure that they keep in touch. With te help of the pants and each other, the girls manage to overcome the various personal struggles and tragedies that they experience, ending up closer than ever despite being farther apart than ever before.
The books rest on the stories of he four main characters, each dealing with their own personal stories:
Lena Kaligaris- Lena is the gorgeous but supremely shy girl with the exotic beauty of her Greek roots. In book one Lena visits her relatives in Greece and falls in love with Kostos, the hot neighbor whose parents are in a fight with Lena’s grandparents. In book two, Lena has her heart broken when she discovers that Kostos has gotten another girl pregnant. In book 3, Lena’s grandmother comes to stay after her husband dies. Lena fights with her parents about her taking art classes (which involve painting nude models, something her father is morally opposed to). Finally, in book 4, Lena takes extra art classes and falls for Leo a guy in her class, only to have Kostos return.
Tibby Rollins- Tibby is the rebellious, film type. In book 1, while her friends are off on their summer adventures, Tibby is stuck at home, working at Wallman’s while trying to get her documentary film going. While working their she befriends 12 year old Bailey a precocious kid who has leukemia and helps Tibby work on her “suckumentary.” In book 2, Tibby goes off to take classes at a film school and finds herself being mean to the people she cares about in order to fit in with a couple of cool kids at the school. In book 3, Tibby’s sister Katherine falls out of a window while Tibby is supposed to be watching her. Although Katherine is fine, Tibby blames herself for the accident and withdraws from those closest to her. In book 4, Tibby and her boyfriend have sex for the first time and after a subsequent pregnancy scare, she pushes her boyfriend away.
Bridget Vreeland- to me, the most interesting character in the group, Bridget is the free-spirited, impulsive, wild-child athlete. (Bridget also comes from a family where her mother killed herself due to her depression, her father is detached from his kids, and her twin brother turns to video games as a means of comfort.) In book 1 Bridget heads to soccer camp where she quickly becomes the star. Not content to just be the best, she sets her sights on a hot male coach and, as always, gets so focused on her goal that she forgets to think about the consequences. In book 2, still reeling from her reckless behavior from the year before, Bridget is on the verge of losing herself. When she discovers that her father had withheld letters from her grandmother for many years, she decides to go see her grandmother. She tries to reconnect with her grandmother while pretending to be someone else and learns about her mother. In book 3, Bidget returns to soccer camp, this time as a coach, only to discover that one of her fellow coaches is the hot male coaches from her first summer at the camp. The two work to form a real friendship instead of the lustful one they began with. In book 4, Bridget heads to an archaeological dig in Turkey where she falls for a married professor. After learning some important lessons on the dig, Bridget returns home and begins to rebuild her broken family.
Carmen Lowell- the loudmouthed, mommy and daddy’s girl from the divorced family. In book 1, Carmen is THRILLED to be spending the summer with her father only to discover that he has a new “perfect, blond” family. In book 2, Carmen must deal with her mother’s new boyfriend. As her mother and the boyfriend get closer, Carmen gets jealous and fears that she will be forgotten. For book 3, Carmen spends her summer taking care of Lena’s grandmother Valia and her very pregnant mother. And she manages to find time for a hot new guy in her life. In book 4, Carmen has gone off to college and, in a desperate attempt to fit in, she loses herself while trying to cater to theater darling. But when she gets chosen for a part in a play, the theater darling is none-to-pleased with her.
Sometimes it amazes me how little actually happened in each book. Because we’re following all four girls (though sometimes I wished it otherwise) we don’t dwell on any one of them too long so while big things happen in each one’s lives, very little ACTUALLY happens. But that’s ok, as Ann Brashares maintains a nice pace and keeps you interested. As I’ve said, Bridget’s story line is the most interesting to me, perhaps because hers is the saddest story and it’s hard to compare the death of your mother to being upset that your mother has found a guy who makes her happy. But Brashares has written four very different, very real girls and everyone can see themselves in at least one of the characters.
Sometimes, when I need a break from one of the long books I’ve been reading (most of the books I’ve been reading lately have been 700-1,000 pages), I like to go back and read this series. Normally, I pick one girl and just read her story, skipping all the others so that I can finish in an hour or so, but it’s a series I’ve revisited many times and it has yet to lose its charm.
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