Brashares has found a way to expand the Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants story without actually writing another Sisterhood book. Instead, she turns to the high school The Septembers attended and follows three teenage girls as they approach their freshmen year.
Polly feels like she is being left behind by her friends Ama and Jo. In an attempt to move ahead, she sets her sights on Modeling. Ama, meanwhile, has received a scholarship which lands her in a wilderness camp. Not the outdoorsy type, Ama wants to go home, but when she gets lost during a hike she has a lot of time to re-evaluate her life. Jo, the blossoming cool girl, spends her time bussing tables in while staying at her family’s beach home. While there, she meets a hot new guy, only to discover that he has a girlfriend, non other than Effie Kaligaris, Lena’s younger sister.
Like with the sisterhood series, Brashares introduces realistic characters, each dealing with their own personal troubles while discovering why their friendship is so important. However, the fun quotes scattered throughout the Sisterhood books are not quite so charming in this book. The tree metaphor feels forced and overdone (and unnecessary). One thing that particularly bothered me was the portrayal of Effie who went from a fierce but still nice girl to an obnoxious, sort of evil teen. Granted she was a very secondary character in the other series so we didn’t see much about her and she would behave differently around her sister’s friends, but even so, the dramatic character change rings untrue.
She does throw in a number of really charming moments (most of them related to the Sisterhood series). For one thing, The Novembers are apparently famous in their high school, leading many girls to attempt to emulate them with a pair of their own magical pants. On the one hand this is really fun (because, let’s face it, tons of girls really did that after the books), but the fact is it’s not something that would really happen within the girls’ high school. More likely they’d be considered pretty strange. But that’s ok, it’s still funny. Also nice are the various ways that the Sisterhood girls are woven into the book without ever really being present. They’re mentioned or in the background of scenes here and there to remember just how big of an imprint they’ve left behind as they moved on to their own worlds. (This is more something that is appreciated by a fan of the other books though it would likely be confusing for a new reader.)
All in all, I would say this book is more fun for the nostalgia it brings of the Sisterhood series than for its ability to stand on its own.
Buy the book:
3 Willows: The Sisterhood Grows (3 Willows (Hardback))