This week I finished The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants, the book my book club and I decided to read after much, much discussion. I read this book as a seventh grader and rereading it now as a junior in college was quite different than my prior experience. As a hopeless romantic 13 year old the summer between sophomore and junior year of high school may have as well been the next millennium. That’s how old these girls were and they were all beautiful, quirky and talented in their own ways; they were practically adults and had glamorous lives compared to my current braces/band geek/ bangs/uncoordinated status. Yes, even Tibby’s job at a superstore seemed like a dream. Then they had perfectly disarranged summer romances and a pen pal network aka they had it all. *tape screeching to a stop, fast forwarding* Okay, now in 2017 I see these characters as immature, gutsy, wild-child at heart girls who have no idea how bad some of their choices are aka I grew up and it kinda sucks. Lena isn’t ideally shy, she is a prude who needs to speak up for herself. Carmen isn’t a damsel in distress, she is making the worst of a bad situation. Tibby isn’t mysterious and cool, she ignores authority and doesn’t allow happiness to exist within her. And Bridget, well she is certainly fearless, but lack of fear can lead to trouble because we were given gut feeling for a reason. Even the writing, something 13 year old me never considered, seems forced. The ethnic, economical and character differences between the girls seem forced and make it unlikely they would even be friends. The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants is proof some stories belong in our adolescence where reality can’t touch them.
The other book I completed this week also centered around teenaged girls. The full title would be Who Am I Without Him?: Short Stories about Girls and the Boys in their Lives and it’s not lying, that’s exactly what I was in for. Most of the stories are told by the girls themselves, but a few are told by the boys and one was in the form of a letter from an absent father. <– (That was my favorite one.) The girls are all in middle or high school and the book never says it in words, but they are all from areas with a rich African American culture. This was detectable through the vernacular used and the way characters are
described. Some of the plots involve being too shy to talk to boys, having to keep and extra eye on a boy, questions of economic class, how male and female emotions differ and how to get around religion to date. As I said, my favorite one was the last story of the collection, a letter from an absent father. He knows he has nothing to offer his daughter, so he writes advice “her mother can’t give”.
Happy reading, everyone!