CM . . .
. Volume XI Number 21 . . . .June 24, 2005
Girls in Pants is the third book in a series about the friendship of four American high school girls from middle class Washington. In this instalment, the girls spend the post high school summer nervously contemplating the decisions they have made about college and falling in love with various wonderful boys.
Lena and Bridget are mourning past love relationships while Tibby falls in love with Brian, a boy she's known forever, and Carmen attracts Win, a pre-med student whom she meets on her various trips to the hospital. Lena has to convince her traditional Greek parents that she really should go to art school. Carmen has to come to terms with her mother's pregnancy. Bridget must learn to be friends with Eric, instead of lovers, as he has a new girlfriend. Finally, Tibby contemplates what her family means to her as her younger sister endures a close brush with death.
In this claustrophobic, melodramatic, cell-phone world, all the girls rely on the confidence they receive from a jointly owned pair of pants that they pass back and forth to the group member who needs them the most.
In 30 short chapters, Brashares captures perfectly the uneasy anxiety, second-guessing and reflective world of self-absorbed middle class young women. They manage to surface for air long enough to support an aging grandmother, to help birth a mother's new baby, to develop a winning soccer team and to win an art scholarship. Brashares deftly integrates the main plot details of the first two books so that this novel could be read alone... Not that it would be!!
Although Brashares tries valiantly to differentiate these four girls, they are all basically the same bundle of teenage angst facing different problems. They work together as a group to support each other, never disagreeing, only breathlessly cheering each other on. Their mothers having met while pregnant with the girls, this group has a long history of shared activity and traditions (see travelling pants above) that flashes "Friends Forever" in neon during a hot Washington summer. The camp, art school, restaurant, hospital and home scenes are generic middle class and could have meaning for any teenage girl in North America.
This is a hugely popular series of books as it meets the needs of young girls who need to validate the crucible of friendship and to re-assure themselves that they will fall in love with amazing boys. The series stresses the necessity of developing a right relationship with your parents and siblings, dealing with your own feelings and finding your own way. As a series, it will keep girls reading until they discover chick lit for women or move on to real literature.
Joan Marshall is the teacher-librarian at Fort Richmond Collegiate in Winnipeg, MB.
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Copyright © the Manitoba Library Association. Reproduction for personal use is permitted only if this copyright notice is maintained. Any other reproduction is prohibited without permission.