Note: These are my thoughts on the entire series, so the discussion of each subsequent book contains spoilers for those previous but not the novel itself. This is a review of book 5, which may provide spoilers of the previous 4 books but will not contain any for the novel itself. For reviews of books 1 and 2, click here. For reviews of books 3 and 4, click here.
the Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants Series by Ann Brashares after nearly a decade apart was the release of a fifth and final book in the series, set ten years after book four, Sisterhood Everlasting. Although the first four books in the series are young adult novels, as the four girls are 15 to 18 years old, this one picks up when they are 29 and is therefore considered an adult novel. While the story is more mature in the issues it address, Brashares' writing is just as accessible as it was previously, meaning that Sisterhood Everlasting fits well with the other novels and would still be easy to read for young adults, providing that they are prepared for the emotional story. What I love about this book, is that in a way I grew up with the sisters, having been a young teen when the first novel was released and now being in my early twenties, in a way I feel as if I have grown up with Tibby, Carmen, Lena and Bee.
When Sisterhood Everlasting begins, the four girls who had reaffirmed their friendship and commitment to each other at the end of Forever in Blue, have grown apart. Carmen lives in New York as an actress, and is engaged to a much older fiance. Bridget is in California and still refusing to settle down with her long term boyfriend Eric, constantly moving and giving away their belongings as her itch to not stay in one place grows stronger. Finally, Lena is working as an art teacher in Rhode Island, and although she has a quiet and content life, she still dreams of Kostos and the path she didn't take. Then Tibby, the most absent of the four, having moved to Australia, reaches out to the other girls and sends them all plane tickets for a reunion in Greece. What the girls find when they get there will surprise and shock both them and the reader. As they attempt to bridge the space, not just a physical distance but an emotional one, that has formed between them, we learn what the last ten years have meant for the Sisterhood and that way lies ahead may not be what anyone expected.
Picking up Sisterhood Everlasting, I admit that I was longing for a happy ending. When a tragic event occurs early on in the novel, I realized that what I was going to get was something far more powerful, a realistic and heartbreaking story about growing up and growing apart. Tibby, Carmen, Lena and Bridget all feel like good friends to the reader, and like good friends, you only want the best for them. What Brashares provides isn't a fairytale, but a perceptive and touching story that fits the personalities of the characters, and the fact that things rarely turn out how we expected. That said, I had two main complaints about the novel which didn't quite coincide with reality. The first was that the majority of people do not end up with the first person they dated or fell in love with, especially if they met this person when they were only fifteen. I know introducing a whole slew of new characters in the final book in a series doesn't really make sense though, so I could forgive the fact that so many of the girls end up with characters from previous books, even if I didn't quite believe it. The second point is a spoiler, so if you haven't read the book skip over the next sentence (highlight it to read it). There is a huge flaw in the scientific basis of Tibby's illness, because it is a genetic disease which is a dominant allele, her having it would require that at least one of her parents have it as well, a point that is totally ignored (unless she had a random mutation in the exact right place for the disease to occur which would be very very very rare). Also, her requiring hospice care at such a young age seems a bit extreme, symptoms tend not to manifest badly until the person is in their mid-thirties or forties. Unfortunately, as a grad student in biology, this scientific mistake really bothered me, especially because it plays such an important role in the story. However, perhaps it would not even be noticed by the average reader.
In a way, it's not necessary to read Sisterhood Everlasting, the fourth book in the series ties things up quite nicely, ending on a happier note than this new book does. That said, I'm glad to have had this opportunity to see how life has turned out for the girls, and to get the chance to meet up with them one last time. As a whole, The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants Series provides an insightful and wonderful look into the lives of four beautiful and unique teenage girls- but what Brashares adds to the series with Sisterhood Everlasting is a reminder that although we don't always get our Happily Ever After, if we remember who are friends are, and who we are, then maybe we can get something even more meaningful.
Release Date: June 14th, 2011
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