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June 06, 2009

Review: 3 Willows

2009 Finishes: Books

3 Willows by Ann Brashares
Genre: YA
Pages: 319
Rating: 8

3 Willows is the first in Brashares' new series, The Sisterhood Grows. The sisterhood in question, of course, is the Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants, the wildly popular teen book and movie franchise. After four books in the Traveling Pants series, Brashares faced the problem of her teen protagonists not being teens anymore. So rather than try to continue with them, she moved on to a new, younger set of girls. They are based in the same town and, slightly weirdly, know of the Traveling Pants girls as a sort of legend around school. I don't know about you, but I never really got the impression that all that many people knew about the magic of the pants in the original books. But anyway. There are some tangential connections - one of the new girls babysits for the younger siblings of one of the original girls, one of them has one of the original girls' sisters as a romantic rival, etc. And it seems as though the original girls themselves will make occasional cameos in this new series. All of this, no doubt, will help appease readers who wanted the original series to continue.

Now, how about the book itself? It follows the now-familiar formula of a group of adolescent girls with differing interests and personalities who are nevertheless bound together by some sort of improbable friendship, and who each have a Big Issue that needs to be dealt with over the course of the novel. (Now that I think about it, I wonder if this sort of thing got its start with The Baby-sitters Club and the other 1980s girls' series books like that? Hmm. Are there earlier examples I'm just not remembering?) 3 Willows is good - not as good as the original books (especially the first) but better than most of the legions of imitators that are now being published. The girls are a little younger and their problems a little less mature, but that's fine. The girls themselves are all likeable enough, if somewhat cliched - the poor little rich girl whose parents are separating, the brilliant immigrant who ends up on one of those horrifying wilderness adventure camping trips instead of at an academic camp, etc. The beginning was a little slow, but after about fifty pages I didn't want to put it down.

There are definite lessons in these sorts of books, but Brashares manages to make this add to rather than detract from the reading experience. The main lessons here are: 1) Be yourself, but don't be afraid to try new things; 2) The real friends are the ones who are there when you need them, not necessarily the ones who are most sophisticated or have the right clothes; and 3) Remember that family is important but don't let it completely define you. Again, nothing groundbreaking here, but they're good reminders for the target audience of young teens (and the rest of us). If you liked the Traveling Pants books or other similar titles, give this a try.

Posted by Kat at June 6, 2009 08:15 AM
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