Young Adult Education

Thrift Stores Are Magic: ‘Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants' by Ann Brashares

When people say, “Don’t judge a book by its cover,” they’re usually being metaphorical. You know, like, “Don’t judge this pair of Uggs by how ugly they are, they’re actually really comfortable!” which is something I’ve heard a million times that still hasn’t convinced me to buy Uggs. Anyway, I’m not just using that saying as a figure of speech this time, because the original Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants covers were not so hot, to put it politely. Pastels? A pair of pants? And what is that font, even? If I were to judge this book by its cover, I’d judge it way too embarrassing to recommend to anyone.

Thankfully, someone wised up and picked out much less cringe-worthy covers that actually fit the tone of the books. Because here’s the thing, guys…The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants is actually a super-awesome series. I know the title seems a little silly, but the books feature death, sex, family drama and, most importantly, female friendships that feel real, not saccharine.

There are 5 books in the Sisterhood series, but obviously I don’t have the space or the mental capacity to discuss all 5 of them here, so we’ll just stick with the first one. Also, I CANNOT EVEN BEGIN to handle or think about the fifth book so I’m just going to pretend it doesn’t exist for now.

Carmen, Tibby, Bridget and Lena have been friends since they were babies. Just as they’re about to start their first summer apart, they find a pair of thrift store jeans that just so happen to fit all of their different body types perfectly. Scoff at this all you want, but I will raise my hands and testify to the power of thrift store magic. I mean, there was that time I was looking for a shirt for my Enid from Ghost World costume and I found the exact shirt Thora Birch wore on the cover of the movie. That’s pretty amazing. If thrift stores aren’t magic, well then, apparently I’ve spent more time than I should have being trapped in an uncomfortable conversation with a woman who’s inexplicably wearing latex gloves while searching through the formal dresses at Goodwill.

But enough about my life. The girls agree to mail the pants back and forth to each other all summer. Gorgeous athlete Bee will be spending her summer at soccer camp. Temperamental Carmen is visiting her dad in South Carolina. Introverted artist Lena is staying with her grandparents in Greece. Tibby, the most cynical of the girls, is stuck at home working at Wallman’s drugstore. None of their summers turn out exactly like they thought they would, but the pants manage to embolden them and comfort them through the joy and sadness of their time apart. That sounds a little cheesy, and maybe it is, but life’s cheesy sometimes, too, you know? The girls deal with situations that might get a little melodramatic at times, but they’re always grounded in real emotions.


-I actually love all the characters in this book. Tibby, Lena, Carmen and even Bridget, who is supposed to be so beautiful and athletic that logically, I should hate her. Ann Brashares makes the girls so different from each other, while still showing us why they’re actually friends with each other. There’s just something awesome about any book, movie or TV show that follows a group of four lady friends. Girls, Golden Girls, Girlfriends, Commencement, Little Women (okay, that one had sisters, but whatever)…it’s one of my favorite dynamics.

-The two movies based on the books are amazing. Rory Gilmore (okay, fine, I guess she has a real name: Alexis Bledel) is in them! Also America Ferrera, Blake Lively and Amber Tamblyn. I’m not saying the movies should have won Oscars or anything, but I am saying I can’t resist them when they’re on TV. I saw the first one in theaters with my best friend and we may have both cried. Okay, we totally both cried. Whatever.

-One of the best things about the Sisterhood series is that it features some serious romance. Bee has a forbidden “thing” with her older camp counselor and Lena falls head over heels for Greek dude, Kostos. Although there’s no real romance in Tibby’s plotline in the first book, it does mark the introduction of Brian McBrian, who eventually turns into one of The Most Crushable Dudes in YA (in my opinion).

-I love YA books where someone’s life changes over the course of One Eventful Summer. I wanted that to happen so badly when I was in high school, but for me, a “crazy summer” was one where I worked at a local summer camp and had to wash a lot of dishes. That doesn’t really compare to going to Greece and falling in love with a sexy Greek dude, you know? There were no Greek dudes at that local summer camp, and even if there had been, they definitely weren’t swimming naked in ponds. Oh, did I not mention that was part of this book? Well, it is. There’s a naked Greek dude swimming in a pond. You’ve been warned!

-The book features inspirational/insightful quotes, song lyrics, and poems before each chapter. I loved this to an irrational degree, but then again, I also love reading self-help books and my horoscope.

-So when I was doing research for this article (“research” meaning Googling), I found this article that says Blake Lively, America Ferrera and Alexis Bledel all attended David Cross and Amber Tamblyn’s wedding. THE SISTERHOOD IS REAL, YOU GUYS. Also, holy moly, am I ever in love with Amber Tamblyn’s dress. I just picked out my own wedding dress a few weeks ago and now I’m regretting the decision to not go for bright yellow.

What about you guys? Have you read Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants? Have you seen the movie? How much did you cry? And what do you think of the last book because SERIOUSLY, WHAT? Let me know in the comments! And, as always, I love to hear your suggestions about books to feature in Young Adult Education! Leave a comment, email me at or find me on Twitter @KerryAnn.

  • Katie Male

    Oh, the fifth book. You see, when I started reading the fifth book, I wanted to rip it to shreds. I was lying on the floor crying because I thought my life was over–that was until I was reminded that these characters are not real (which they are, so whatever mom). But in the end, I thought the book gave the series a fullness that it hadn’t reached until the end. It was meant to be that way, and instead of copping out so that we could feel good about the stories, Brashares make the book real. Now, I find the fifth book to show the strength of the sisterhood because nothing will ever come between the love those four girls have for each other. (*steps off of soapbox*)

    • Kerry Winfrey

      That’s a good point, Katie! I definitely didn’t HATE the last book, it just…well, it was hard for me to understand. I like your ideas about it, though!

  • Courtney Michelle Schultz

    I credit Ann Brashares and The Sisterhood books for introducing me to my love of reading, because it was freshmen year I spotted the weird cover of that first book in my high school library. I waited patiently for the second book (my favorite) and those that followed. Sisterhood Everlasting might win the prize for most times I’ve tossed a book across my bedroom, but I (albeit begrudgingly) loved that one, too. I grew up with those girls and hope I can share their stories with my daughter someday.

    Gosh, just reflecting on them now makes me think I will have to do a reread of all five this summer!

    • Kerry Winfrey

      I’m excited for my (future, hypothetical) daughters (or sons) to read them, too!

  • Rachel Barth

    These are easily my favorite YA books, if not some of my favorite books of all time. I reread them all before the fifth book came out and they were just as good, even years after I first read them. I’m also pretty sure these were the first books that have made me cry. I also made the mistake of reading Amazon reviews of the fifth book so I had an idea of what was going to happen, though it didn’t really make it any less depressing. I wasn’t crazy about the second movie, but this reminded me that I haven’t watched the first in a while so I’ll have to do that soon!

    • Kerry Winfrey

      Yeah, I was (pleasantly) surprised by how much I still loved/related to the first Sisterhood book. Apparently I haven’t changed that much between 16 and 26.

  • Courtney Firestone

    I love that the Sisterhood is mentioned in two HelloGiggles articles today! If it were up to me, these would be required reading for every girl. I’ve lost track of how many times I’ve reread this series and I still manage to learn something new from it every time, so thank you to Ann Brashares,

    • Kerry Winfrey

      I love it, too…every site needs more Ann Brashares!

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