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Literature / The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants

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The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants is a series of books by Ann Brashares. The series chronicles the lives of four girls who have been best friends since they were babies. One summer before they had to split for the season, they find a pair of jeans that magically fit all four of them. So they decide to rotate the pants around through the mail to keep in touch while they're apart. Each book in the series takes place over one summer.

In 2005, a movie was made based on the first book. It starred Amber Tamblyn, America Ferrera, Blake Lively, and Alexis Bledel. The original series consisted of four books, but a sequel has been released since then, as well as a spin-off taking place in the same universe and focusing on new characters.

Not to be confused with the Sisterhood Series.

Books in the series:

  • The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants (2001)
  • The Second Summer of the Sisterhood (2003)
  • Girls in Pants: The Third Summer of the Sisterhood (2006)
  • Forever in Blue: The Fourth Summer of the Sisterhood (2007)
  • Sisterhood Everlasting (2011)

This book series and film adaptation provide examples of:

  • Aborted Arc:
    • Part of Lena's arc in the third book is her realizing that she can't just keep waiting around for Kostos and has to move on, and also features her briefly connecting with Carmen's stepbrother Paul. In the fourth book, Lena is right back to pining for Kostos despite having a new love interest named Leo, and ends up with Kostos by the end of the story; things trail off with Leo, and Paul and Lena are never mentioned in reference to each other again.
    • Actually invoked by Carmen with Win Sawyer, her love interest in the third book. By the time the fourth book takes place, the pair have lost touch, and Carmen admits to herself that she let her relationship with Win fizzle out on purpose because she didn't feel like she deserved him.
  • Adaptational Curves: Tibby in the books is said to be petite and flat-chested like a younger child, the movies has her portrayed by the slightly shapelier Amber Tamblyn.
  • Adapted Out:
    • Perry, Bridget's introverted twin brother, is adapted out of the movies.
    • Zig-zagged with Effie, Lena's effervescent younger sister. There's no indication that she exists in the first movie and doesn't join her sister in Greece. In the second movie, she plays a larger role and is played by Lucy Hale, and it's as though she's been there the whole time.
  • Aesop Amnesia:
    • Averted. At first, Carmen getting mad at her mother for getting pregnant might seem like she's forgetting her experiences in the first and second book, but her inner narrative states that she can figure out what happens when she gets angry and the fallout, but she still does it.
    • Played straight for almost everyone in Sisterhood Everlasting. Carmen lets someone she has no real connection with absorb her life, Lena watches life drift by by waiting for Kostos again, and the girls make the same mistake their mothers did by letting each other slip away.
  • Affectionate Nickname: They all have these for each other: Carma, Lenny, Tibs, and Bee.
  • Armor-Piercing Question: In the film, during Carmen's "The Reason You Suck" Speech to her father, every single one of these questions, and particularly the final one:
    Carmen: It's like you traded me and Mom in for something that you thought was better, and I wanna know why. Are you ashamed of me? Are you embarrassed? Just tell me, Dad, what did I do wrong? Why did you leave? Why did you have to go? And then tell me that we were gonna be closer? But that never happened! Dad, why does Paul visit his alcoholic dad every month… but you only visit me twice a year?
  • Asians Eat Pets: In the first tome, one of the narrators quip that one of the reason to abandon a dog would be moving to a country where dog meat is eaten, like Korea.
  • Babies Ever After: At the end of series, Bridget has decided to keep the baby she's pregnant with, and the Septembers are going to band together to raise Tibby's toddler daughter.
  • The Baby Trap: In the second book, a girl that Kostos sleeps with after Lena breaks up with him fakes a pregnancy in order to guilt Kostos into marriage.
  • Blood Sisters: On the eve of their separation, magic has come to them in a pair of pants that they will share. They are the 'sisters of the pants' that link them in hearts and spirits...
  • Book Ends: Carmen narrates the prologue of the first book and the epilogue of Sisterhood Everlasting.
  • Broken Aesop: The novel series has an almost shockingly negative view of sex, which is perhaps appropriate given a teenage demographic, but it's worth noting that most of the people who have sex are either bad/unstable people, or are punished for it.
    • Tibby is punished for having sex for the first time with a pregnancy scare that scars her so much she breaks up with Brian.
    • Bridget having sex with Eric is an obviously reckless action driven by her mental illness; it also makes her miserable.
    • Lena loses her virginity to Leo and becomes depressed that it wasn't with her one true love.
    • Kostas and Lena don't have sex their second summer together, but he reveals that he had had sex with a previous girlfriend, who was Obviously Evil and faked a pregnancy to Baby Trap him. Basically, the message is that good people only have sex with their one true love, and even then, you better watch out!
  • Changing Yourself For Love: Albert, the father of Carmen, who divorced her mother Christina and then remarried with Lydia, was a lot more religiously praticant than with his former wife, being observed praying by Carmen.
  • Did They or Didn't They?: It's purposely left ambiguous if Bridget and Eric did in the first book, though in the fourth book Bridget finally says it actually happened.
  • Family Business: Lena's grandparents run a Greek restaurant together.
  • First Girl Wins: A gender-flipped version. All the girls end up with their romantic partner from the first book in the final installment: Lena is with Kostos, Bridget is with Eric, and Tibby had a child with Brian. The exception is the perpetually single Carmen who didn't have a boyfriend at the end of the first book.
  • Four-Girl Ensemble: There is Lena, who is a shy, introspective aspiring artist, Bridget, who is daring and courageous with gorgeous blond hair, Carmen, who is the organized one and the "glue" keeping the Sisterhood together, and Tibby, who is known as the rebel and disdainful one.
  • Four-Philosophy Ensemble: Tibby (the Cynic) is a bitter drama queen. Carmen (the Optimist) has enthusiasm for life. Lena (the Realist) overthinks everything. Bridget (the Apathetic) acts on impulse rather than reason.
  • Four-Temperament Ensemble: Carmen, Tibby, Bridget, and Lena spend their first summer apart. Carmen snaps and gets mad (choleric) so she comes home expecting Tibby to understand because Tibby walks around screaming, "Screw the world" because that's easier than feeling something (melancholic). Carmen and Tibby visit Bridget who talks about her mother and she tells her friends that she just wants to feel good and happy and alive (sanguine). The last one to join them is Lena who feels so sad that people like Kostas and Bridget who have lost everything can still be open to love while she, who has lost nothing, is not (phlegmatic).
  • Gorgeous Greek: Kostos ist described as being extremely attraktive. Lena herself counts as well.
  • Ivy League for Everyone:
    • Subverted in the third and fourth books. Bridget went to Brown, but the rest of the girls went to some prestigious schools outside of the ivy league.
    • Played straighter in the film adaptation, in which Carmen goes to Yale instead of Williams College.
  • Lamaze Class: In the third book, Carmen goes with her mom to Lamaze class, but it's Tibby who's there when she gives birth.
  • Missing Mom: Bridget's mom died sometime before the series begins. It's implied to have been suicide.
  • Naked First Impression: Lena and Kostos.
  • Old Maid: After Carmen dumps him, Jones lobs this at Carmen, claiming she won't find a husband as a 30-something woman in New York.
  • Pregnancy Scare: To Tibby, in the fourth book, after a condom accident. Though it wouldn't have been quite so bad if she hadn't been juggling multiple Idiot Balls during the whole thing. Without waiting for any indication that she was actually pregnant, she freaked out over the exact timing of when her period is due (is it one month after the last one began or after the last one ended?), and broke up with her boyfriend out of fear of the pregnancy.
  • Sibling Yin-Yang:
    • Lena is quiet and withdrawn, while her sister Effie is confident and outgoing.
    • Goes for Bee and her twin brother Perry, too. Bee is outgoing, passionate, impulsive and a jock, while Perry is very quiet, withdrawn, and lives at his computer.
  • So Beautiful, It's a Curse: Lena, though in a more realistic case than usual. Her striking good looks contrast with her antisocial personality, and most people are too intimidated to even approach her.
  • There Are No Therapists: Not played completely straight, as it's indicated that Bridget has been to a therapist before. But considering all the things that Bridget (and the others) go through throughout the books, it's odd that seemingly all of her problems are solved more through projects and a good talk with a loved one. Particularly extreme in Sisterhood Everlasting, where she states that "even the sky felt like a prison" and she is in such distress that she runs away from her current life and can't bear her emotions, but it's all resolved by getting pregnant and connecting with Brian and little Bailey.
  • True Companions: Carmen narrates saying, "Together, it was as if we formed one single, complete person." The trope is frequently deconstructed throughout the series. The first novel's overarching plot is about the girls spending an extended time apart for the first time in their lives. When Carmen goes to college in the fourth book, she realizes that she finds it nearly impossible to make new friends because she's grown so accustomed to always having her childhood friends with her. Sisterhood Everlasting begins with the girls having been separated for a long time and regretting not having kept in touch better, and Tibby dies right before they're all able to meet up again.

Alternative Title(s): The Sisterhood Of The Traveling Pants