Reading Notes: The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants by Ann Brashares

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the sisterhood of the traveling pants - ann brashares - book cover

The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants by Ann Brashares is one of those books that I had zero interest in reading when it came out. Maybe even less than 0 interest. Maybe like -5 interest.

It’s not just that everyone else wanted to read it or had already read it and loved it, and I was an angry middle schooler who hated doing what was expected of me (like painting my nails and enjoying Degrassi).

It was that by not liking what the pretty (read: white, mostly blonde) girls at school liked, I could avoid being judged for failing to measure up. By not playing the same game as they did, I couldn’t lose.

I realized eventually that my behavior was a product of a racist society as well as my own internalized misogyny, and that, for example, Legally Blonde is a great movie, and I’m proud to be Chinese-American, and glitter is glorious.

(Granted, I was way more interested in The Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter books and movies than anything that had to do with real life, because I realized at an early age that fiction was a great way to escape the hellscape that is living on this planet.)

So when The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants went on sale on Kindle (once again, shoutout to Goodreads daily deals!) I decided to give it a chance, and I… wish I’d checked it out from the library instead.

It was alright. I’m not going to read it again, but I could see myself liking this book a lot if I’d picked it up during early adolescence instead of in my mid-20s. I am definitely most like Lena, but I see myself in both Tibby and Bridget. This book felt real. Growing up is so sad, and happiness is both so small and so huge, y’know?

But frankly, it’s not the kind of YA I want to be reading these days.

Nonetheless, here are some (spoilery) quotes and excerpts that I liked felt the need to comment on, and exactly one vocabulary word, after the jump.

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atavisticadj. – relating to or characterized by reversion to something ancient or ancestral

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QUOTES & EXCERPTS (full of spoilers)


Our pants weren’t like the neurotic puppy whose parents left it alone, barking itself hoarse from morning till night. They were more like the grown-up dog whose family loved it but had to move to an apartment building or maybe to Korea (is it Korea?), where people sometimes eat dogs.

[Sam’s note: WHAT THE FUCK? Was the editor white? I bet the editor was white. Fuck you.]

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They are happy just doing their basic job of covering your butt without making it look fatter than it actually is.

[Sam’s note: It’s cool that this captures the not-just-teenage self-consciousness about having a body that doesn’t look the way you want it to, but uh, it also implies that fatness is inherently bad and I’m not here for it.]

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Lena has big feet, like size nine and a half or something. They are the only part of her that isn’t perfect.


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Nowadays our mothers act like friendship is an elective—falling somewhere down the list after husbands, children, career, home, money.

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You know what the secret is? It’s so simple. We love one another. We’re nice to one another. Do you know how rare that is?

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“Hi. Hi.” Bridget waved to two girls lugging their stuff into the cabin. They had tan, muscular soccer-player legs.

[Sam’s note: Is there a bi version of the seal yelling “GAAAAYYYY”?]

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The sunset was too beautiful. It almost made Lena feel panicked because she couldn’t save it.

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He was good-looking enough to make Lena suspicious.

[Sam’s note: HARD SAME.]

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She personally thought that the only reason most girls put up with most boys at all was because they needed reassurance that they were pretty. That was one thing, maybe the only thing, Lena knew about herself without reassurance.

“No thanks,” she said. She didn’t even make an excuse. She had learned long ago that boys took excuses as further reasons to ask you out.

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Gently he gathered her hands and gave them back. In her ear he whispered, “We can’t do this.”

[Sam’s note: Imagine me screaming “yes you can” and “you really shouldn’t though” at the same time.]

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Her cleats were beat up and muddy, molded perfectly to her feet. They made her walk like a jock, but she liked that too.

[Sam’s note: Bi seal.]

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She was sad about what had happened to Kostos. And someplace under that, she was sad that people like Bee and Kostos, who had lost everything, were still open to love, and she, who’d lost nothing, was not.

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Maybe happiness didn’t have to be about the big, sweeping circumstances, about having everything in your life in place. Maybe it was about stringing together a bunch of small pleasures. Wearing slippers and watching the Miss Universe contest. Eating a brownie with vanilla ice cream. Getting to level seven in Dragon Master and knowing there were twenty levels to go.

Maybe you just got through it. Maybe that was all you could ask for.

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[Sam’s note: Okay I made a bisexual seal for Bridget.]

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