I grew up with books. They are the oldest friends I have and will ever have.
This is why it brought tears to my eyes when I read the news article announcing that The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants is going to have a third movie based on the fifth (and likely to be the last) book of the series.
I had given up hope of having another movie being rolled out after the release of the second movie that saw them merging three of the four books of the series. Because, well, I suppose movies adapted from YA novels that don’t feature any vampires, dystopian worlds or apocalypse, but instead feature the ordinary lives of simple young folks, don’t get the same royal treatment in the movie biz as those that do. (See Twilight, The Hunger Games, Divergent etc.)
There are many reasons why this YA tale about a magical pair of jeans and four girls has left such an indelible impact on me, and also many reasons why I enjoy reading the Huffington Post so much.
And this article can explain a bit of both.
When I first discovered The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants on the A-B shelf on the Young Adult floor of Jurong East Library, part of me could not believe that I was about to borrow a book about the story of how a magical pair of jeans can fit four girls with different body types and that it was going to “change their lives forever”.
I mean, I am a huge fan of Enid Blyton’s magical trees and Roald Dahl’s friendly giants, but that idea of a pair of magic jeans unrealistically existing in a fictional story with a realistic setting was just difficult to relate to.
But, of course, reading the book changed my life forever. (One of the rare times when the exaggerated book synopses at the back of books spoke true!)
I believe the roots of my addiction to books can be partly traced to my chase for The Sisterhood series back in the days when I was still wearing a school uniform. Before that, most, if not all, of the books I had been reading were either written by writers that are already dead, or published before I was born. The first Sisterhood book, however, was published in 2001. The humble me then was nine years old. When I finally made it onto the top elite floor of the Jurong East Library, it was already 2005. By that time, three books have been published in the Sisterhood series. So, of course, in typical teenage fashion, with nothing much to do after completing homework, I gobbled all three books up.
Like I said, it changed my life forever.
You might ask, how come? How can I relate so much to a series of books about a magical pair of jeans (which I don’t have) and four girls in a sisterhood of friendship since they were born (which I don’t have, as well)?
A friend asked me that when I told her I had stumbled upon this incredible book series that turned my mind upside down and I had highly recommended that she read them as well. Well, the me at fourteen, regrettably, did not have the words to adequately explain the inexplicable tumult in my mind. I was unable to explain to her what this Huffington Post article has done in neat paragraphs.
Even though the book summaries that you Google will tell you that this series of books is about four girls and their magical pair of jeans, it is not about the magical traveling pants. The pair of magical jeans is a literary plot device placed in a thrift store the four protagonists stumbled into at the beginning of the first novel. What began as a plot device slowly developed into “a symbol of female friendship and finding strength in those around you” (Goodman, 2014) throughout the course of the first novel. And throughout the entire series, the pair of pants is used by the author for the four female protagonists to realise their discovered confidence and self-worth — yes, in short, profound things for young minds.
The fourth book of the series was my first real novel chase. It was published in 2007. The humble me then was sixteen, well-acquainted with the top floor of the library but not old enough to spend money to buy a non-textbook book (according to the rules of my household). The day I spotted the brand new — if only books could shine like a diamond — fourth book on the familiar A-B shelf was the day my life changed forever again.
It was a bittersweet read because it was then considered to be the last book of the series. Yes, the author had planned to conclude it there at that point, hence the title Forever in Blue. (Yes, you must treat writers very seriously when they mobilise the use of the word forever.)
This is the fourth book in the Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants series and was considered the last until Brashares published a fifth book in 2011.
I suppose, books are somewhat like babies to writers. They took time to nurture them in their mental wombs and gave birth to them painstakingly and then release them out into the world, where they meet readers and take on a life of their own.
Brashares released the fifth book in 2011. The humble me by then hit age 20, and I had enough spare cash saved up from a year of quiet university days to make my first Sisterhood purchase. It remains the only Sisterhood book I own. I bought it shining like a diamond (thanks to the shrink-wrap) from the now non-existent Wheelock Place Borders (because local bookstores are too lame-ful of assessment books and cookie-cutter fiction to stock such cool books).
A watershed book of the series, some say. I shed my own bucket of tears staying up late to finish the entire book. I don’t know why the writer did what she did — actually I think I do, but like many people, I have this insistence in my mind that fictional things ought to be untouched by the harsh realities of life at all times. But that’s not how Brashares writes her books, and I appreciate that. The way she keeps things real — she jumps 10 years forward in the lives of the characters, because that’s approximately the realistic emotional age of the fans of the series who grew up alongside the characters in the books — not many YA writers dare to do that, because you’re not really YA anymore if your characters are going into their 30s.
But that’s how she wanted to break all of our hearts. Well, then, okay.
I can only relate to a fellow fan of the series how cathartic reading the fifth book was. People who didn’t spend hours of their teen lives reading Brashares’ profound tales for young minds will not find it possible to understand how one’s mind can possibly be changed by a story of four girls and their shared pair of magical jeans.
I cannot wait for the movie to be done and released. Even though there will always be compromises in book-to-film adaptations, I have always found the Sisterhood movies to be very well-done in terms of preserving the spirit of the novels. And now that they have gotten the director of the first film to come and do this third film, I am hopeful it will be excellent.
The thing, though, is that it hardly matters, because in my mind and in the minds of many other fans of the series, we already have an entire book-verse in our minds to fill in any gaps that the movie might present. We have grown up alongside the four protagonists in our minds. The film is just for show and an excuse for two hours of rewarding entertainment on a screen that would remind us of the bittersweet memories of when the words of the novels touched our young hearts.