Book to Film: The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants by Ann Brashares

Four friends Lena, Bridget, Tibby and Carmen discovered that an old pair of jeans, bought on a thrift shop, happens to fit them all. And they look good on it too despite their different builds. So, they chuck it to magic and formed a friendship vow of the Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants (with its list of pros and cons) and decided to pass around the pants as they spent their first summer apart.

Lena (the beauty) travels to Greece, Tibby (the rebel) is stuck at the department store, Bridget (the athlete) is kicking off at the soccer camp and Carmen (the one who cares the most) is dealing with a big family surprise . Each of them wishing some magic dust in the pants will bolster them through the trying episodes they will encounter along the way, that by wearing it something good happens.

It was fun reading the quirky lists and letters on the book. There's certainly more snark and angst, more scattered thoughts and spontaneous quips here. I like the nuance of the handwriting showing a little of the girls' personalities. There's something to smile about in their idealism that pants could mark their lives out of the usual orbit. Though in stark reality, really, it's just a pair of old smelly pants. But, hey, most of us did like symbolism when we were teens.

With the book's soar to popularity in a period of a much tamer young adult genre, a film with the same title was released in 2005, fronted by then promising youngsters Alexis Bledel (Gilmore Girls), Amber Tamblyn (Joan of Arcadia), America Ferrera and the yet unknown Blake Lively.

It was a visually pretty movie spattered with friendly chemistry. It displayed a refreshing and light atmosphere hinting on a bit of every coming of age exploration; dealing with loss, hint of sensuality, finding love and capturing a sense of self.

Here's the thing: I saw it first before reading the book. Something funny usually happens when I do the 'film to book' order because I end up liking the movie more. (It is quite telling on previous reviews and I am not pleased sometimes, I love books above it!). An upside to that is I am not as bothered as a lot of the changes in an adaptation.

The pants looked much washed and cooler than the one described in  the book. (They have a rule of not washing the pants!) Carmen was placed as a narrator by writing how they spent their adventures on her journal.

I actually liked the changed arc of Lena's story in the film. Perhaps I, too, am a sucker for the you-and-me-against-the-world forbidden romance. Bridget, troubled but luminous, leaves quite an appealing wake. There's a subtle dreamy flavor on the scenes of these two. It is balanced by the scenes of Tibby and Carmen which display the rough-around-the-edges and gritty part of the story lending a flavor of realism and angst.

Albeit, perhaps being out of town lends that surreal quality on Lena and Bridget's stories while staying in a suburban American development (as Carmen calls it)  with Tibby and Carmen just dashes one's reverie to land smack into everyday normality.

I think they have shown the intended fragility through the screen which I recognize more than any other emotion. Despite their varied personalities, each isn't immune to loss and struggle, to pain and joys of friendship. The little epiphanies they encounter in the end let them emerge into young women as they gain strength just hanging out together. Of course, it all boils down to a pair of old faded traveling pants.


Carmen got the jeans at a thrift shop. They didn’t look all that great: they were worn, dirty, and speckled with bleach. On the night before she and her friends part for the summer, Carmen decides to toss them. But Tibby says they’re great. She'd love to have them. Lena and Bridget also think they’re fabulous. Lena decides that they should all try them on. Whoever they fit best will get them. Nobody knows why, but the pants fit everyone perfectly. Even Carmen (who never thinks she looks good in anything) thinks she looks good in the pants. Over a few bags of cheese puffs, they decide to form a sisterhood and take the vow of the Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants . . . the next morning, they say good-bye. And then the journey of the pants — and the most memorable summer of their lives — begins.

Book Title: The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants
Author: Ann Brashares
Genre: Young Adult, Romance
Published: 2001
Publisher: Delacorte Press
Rating: ♨♨♨  (3 cups - Enough reason to read if you miss the old young adult era. A refreshing summer or beach read.)

Film Title: The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants
Director: Ken Kwapis
Cast: Alexis Bledel, Amber Tamblyn, America Ferrera, Blake Lively
Release Date: 2005
Rating ♨♨♨ ( 3 cups - These four girls got a good chemistry together and it's palpable making the movie more believable. A nice coming-of-age film spattering of summer escapades, teen angst, family issues, romance and friendship.)

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