Carolyn Keene, Louisa May Alcott, and Laura Ingalls Wilder sold me on serial fiction back when I was a kid. As an adult, Diane Duane, Jim Butcher, and Anne McCaffrey continued that trend.
So, when I started reading YA, I looked for characters I could follow, too. I stumbled on Ann Brashares's Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants quite accidentally, but I got hooked. Ms. Brashares writes likeable characters that readers want to follow through their lives.
I've got to say, it's a brilliant idea to release Sisterhood Everlasting close to ten years after the initial book in the series. Readers who started the series at its inception are growing older and they may want to know how the girls grew up. Readers have a lot of questions--did they end up with their youthful sweethearts, are they successful, do they have children, etc?
I was surprised. Carmen's an actress with a part in a weekly television show and is about to be married to a network executive. Bee's living in California with her boyfriend and beach-bumming it. Lena's teaching art and is single.
Tibby is overseas with Brian. She hadn't even had a chance to say goodbye to her friends. So, when she proposes a reunion in Greece at Lena's grandparents' house, the other three girls are definitely in.
Unfortunately, when the other three show up for the reunion, Tibby's missing. When she's found dead a few hours later, they have no idea the cause of her death and the reasons for her absence from their lives for so long.
They're different women from the girls who shared a magical pair of jeans, but they're still bound by the love they have for each other. Ann Brashares tells their stories with warmth and believable detail. This is not precisely the ending I would have wanted for the series, but it's beautifully done and well worth the read if you were entranced by the pants back almost a decade ago.
As usual, with serial fiction I'm going to comment on whether you can read the book as a stand-alone. Yes, in this case, you can. Brashares has provided enough backstory so you understand why the women are where they are and how they got there. Some readers of women's lit may indeed choose to read this book as a stand-alone and I do believe it will be a pleasure for them.
Rebecca Kyle, October 2011
Order Sisterhood Everlasting as an eBook (or hardcover, which ever suits your tastes).