Yeah, this is the third book in the Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants series. I'm not ashamed to admit that I read the first two books and enjoyed them greatly. I read them before the movie came out... I know I was still at Juco, so this was probably three to four years ago. So it's been a while.
This book is sort of the same as the others, it tells the story of four friends' summer vacation. In the first two books, Lena, Tibby, Bridget and Carmen are all separated for the summer and the pants are a way to keep them all connected. But in this book, Bridget is the only one away and the other three are all at home. It's the summer before they leave for college, and Bridget is coaching at a soccer camp in PA, Lena is taking Art classes, Carmen is babysitting Lena's Grandma and preparing for the birth of her half-brother, and Tibby is... well, she kinda starts dating her friend and her little sister falls out of a tree, but I can't remember what else she does for the summer. The summer before college is an interesting time, because for the first time the girls aren't going to be together again when Fall rolls back around.
One problem that this book faces that the others didn't is that they aren't separated. The whole purpose of the pants in the first books are that they make the girls feel a connection to each other even though they are all far away. The girls deal with the sort of problems that make them wish their friends were there (first love, first hearbreak, a parent remarrying, self-discovery and the death of a friend (all in the first book!!)), and having the pants was a way to make them feel the bonds of their closeknit friendship. The pants gave the girls strength and courage, the same way a pep talk from your closest friend would. The pants would be mailed to each girl in a set pattern where they would keep them for a week and then pass them on to the next girl, usually with a letter. It was a very interesting and effective storytelling device.
In this book, not only are they not separated, but the pants are almost an afterthough. Since three of the four girls are in the same town, the pants don't really serve the same purpose as they did in the previous books. Bridget is the only one who really needs to have the feeling that her friends are with her, but the only time I can remember her wearing the pants is at the game where the team she coached wins a tournament against the other teams at camp. She mentions when she's gettting ready that she puts the pants on, but she doesn't mention if they at all affect the way she feels. I can't even remember when the other girls have the pants. I think Tibby is wearing them when Carmen's brother is born. Lena... maybe when she decides to go to art school? Carmen... I have no idea. I get that the whole pant thing is really cheesy, but it's kind of the cheese that holds everything together.
All in all, it's an OK book. It's targeted at teen girls, so it's not really aiming to be a pulitzer nominee. But I remember the first two books being much better than this one. I give it a grade of C. It was this close to being a C+, and could have even earned a B or higher if Ann Brashares had stuck with the themes of separation and magical pants.
Next up: Black Girl/White Girl by Joyce Carol Oates and Forever in Blue: The Fourth Summer of the Sisterhood