Book review: ‘Sisterhood Everlasting’ by Ann Brashares

Despite its length, this review is spoiler free!

For every reader, there is an author who needs no introduction. You don’t have to convince me to pick up their latest book with a slick press release, awesome book trailer or ethereal dust jacket. These things might make me even more excited, sure, but I know something about these writers as well as I know my own (big) nose: I’m going to read their stories no matter what.

Ann Brashares is one such author — when it comes to her Sisterhood books, anyway. I read her series centering on lifelong friends Tibby, Carmen, Lena and Bridget as a teen myself and was particularly enchanted by the fact they lived in suburban Maryland, like me. The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants novels were hallmarks of my formative years — novels that bolstered me up and encouraged me with their realistic models of love and friendship. I adored the films based on the books, too, and think often of the Septembers and where they would be now.

Which is why I shouted with joy after learning Brashares would offer us a follow-up to her beloved series: Sisterhood Everlasting, a novel checking in with the girls ten years after the fourth book ended. At 29, I expected Tibby, Lena, Bridget and Carmen to have developed and grown and matured in such a way that I would celebrate both their struggles and successes, rejoicing in the redemptive powers of friendship. I was expecting a look at surviving a quarter-life crisis, perhaps, and figured one or two might be married, might have children, might have “big girl” jobs in cities. I assumed they’d still be figuring out their family and personal dramas, sure, but they’d be light years ahead of were they were. Life is all about moving forward, after all.

But I didn’t expect the long, melodramatic and often maudlin book I was delivered. Going into Sisterhood Everlasting, I didn’t even read a synopsis of the plot — I just knew I had to read it, no matter what, so I didn’t bother. I didn’t want anything to be spoiled for me. My approach was completely fresh and undiluted; I walked in with a clear head and an open heart. And I was disappointed.

I didn’t expect to feel sick to my stomach while reading this book, aching with a hurt I didn’t know I could feel for book characters. Since I don’t think I can discuss Sisterhood Everlasting without spoiling the story for you, I’m not going to describe it at all. And if you’re planning on reading this one, I wouldn’t recommend peeking at too many other summaries, either.

I wanted to love this book. I wanted so badly to love this book, and it pains me to say that I just . . . did not love this book. Brashares’ writing is, as always, lovely and moving. She has a way of diving straight into the minds of these, our favorite friends, that is unparalleled. What they felt, I felt. How they hurt? I hurt (and oh, did I hurt). But it was all just so sad, you guys. Really, really sad.

The only bright spot in the long, drawn-out slog that was Sisterhood Everlasting was the story of Lena and Kostas. Lena has long been my favorite of the Septembers and the most like me, I’d wager, and I craved the bits of narrative involving the two like a wanderer lost in the desert. No matter how tough this was to read, I had to see how Kostas and Lena’s stories would play out.

Was this book suspenseful, thought-provoking, addictive? Yes. Did I ever actually think of abandoning it in the few days in which I inhaled it, desperate for the next section? No. Did my stomach ache as though I’d suffered through a terrible episode of grief myself, giving me bad dreams for days? Absolutely.

But I’m not sorry I read it. I wish Brashares had written us a different ending, but I understand the thought process behind the undying nature of the girls’ bond . . . and I could appreciate what it was she was trying to demonstrate. But I didn’t like it, and I was disappointed by the fact that, ten years after we last saw them, none of the girls seemed to have changed or matured at all.

My sister, also a devoted Sisterhood fan, read this book before me. I watched for days as she paced the house with hardcover in hand, frantically turning the pages and staying up late into the night to finish. As someone who works from home and has a crazy schedule, Kate barely has time to read — but she finished Sisterhood Everlasting less than 72 hours after receiving it. When she was ready to pass it over to me, her eyes were glassy. “I think it’s one of the best books I’ve ever read,” she announced.

Lofty praise.

I was next with it and also devoured the novel quickly. For three days, we checked in with each other constantly regarding plot development and stayed up discussing the intricacies of the story. As I continued reading and found myself more and more annoyed, Kate’s eyes began to narrow. She’d loved it fiercely and couldn’t understand why I wasn’t just as enamored with it as she was.

After I finished Sisterhood Everlasting and shared my final thoughts, my sister seemed angry with me. It’s always that way with a book we love intensely, isn’t it? We’re protective of it. We nurture it. We want to keep it safe from harm. “You better not give that book a bad review!” she hollered.

And I’m not, Kate. More of a lukewarm one with a soft undertone of distaste.

Fans of the Sisterhood series will be eager to catch up with their favorite characters, but I’d warn any tender hearts away from this one. On the whole, I would have rather left our ladies on the cusp of adulthood on that final day in Greece. That parting scene in Forever In Blue brought tears to my eyes in a way that this book never did — or could. I just wanted more.


3 out of 5!

ISBN: 0385521227 ♥ GoodreadsLibraryThingAmazonAuthor Website
Review copy provided by LibraryThing’s Early Reviewers program

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17 thoughts on “Book review: ‘Sisterhood Everlasting’ by Ann Brashares

  1. Meg – I am glad to see your review of this book. I too adored the Sisterhood novels as a teen although I was slightly disappointed with the final novel, which I found a bit maudlin as well. However, I was unaware that she was coming out with a new addition to the Sisterhood tales. Even though I am afraid of what I will find, I have to read this book for Lena and Tibby and Bridget and Carmen. I am approaching with caution though – and my thoughts will be posted to kristinharkins.blogspot.com when I am done!

  2. I completely agree with your review, as you know. It was just too dramatic, too sad – I expected heartbreak, yes, but also joy and love and a celebration of life. It left me wanting as well.

  3. I am afraid to read this one. I brought it with me on vacation, but I don’t want to be disappointed. You had bad dreams for days? Yikes. My favorite character is Lena as well and I hope things end nicely for her. Thanks for the honest review, Meg! I’m sorry this one wasn’t as good as you had hoped.

    • I guess it’s a testament to the book’s emotional power that I had bad dreams, Christina! Though I wasn’t pleased with the story overall, I was deeply affected by the plot and the girls’ fates. I’m sure you’ll read it quickly on vacation — it’s not an easy one to set down.

  4. I’ve not read any of these books but I enjoyed this review anyway — you expressed so thoughtfully your feelings. I absolutely appreciate how much it hurts to not love a novel you want so badly to adore! Too bad it didn’t click for you! :/

  5. I had someone on Good Reads spoil the big twist in the book for me, so now I’m really not sure I want to read it, despite loving the first four books. I know the girls are women now and are supposed to be different, but this one seems so far away from the Septembers I knew and loved.

  6. Maybe your expectations were too high after your sister’s praise. I’ve only read one of the Sisterhood books, so I don’t plan to pick this one up anytime soon.

  7. I’m just about finished this, and I couldn’t agree more with your sentiments. The entire tone is horribly depressing, and even moreso because of my prior relationships with the characters. I also wish this would turn out differently. Ah well.

  8. I haven’t read the sisterhood books but I enjoyed the first film. Lena was my favorite character as well, but this may be because of the actress: I love Rory Gilmore (and yes, she will always be Rory Gilmore even if she has a real name) Anyways, I love this review because sometimes the way we feel about a book is not straightforward. I feel there is a difference between disliking a book and disliking what happens in a book. I recently read a book that left me deeply, deeply distraught. I dreamt about it. I felt broken and depressed afterwards. But a part of me loved the book. I just hated what happened in it. It’s a weird feeling.

  9. Fantastic review. I haven’t even read the Sisterhood books and I feel the ache you seemed to have felt reading this book.

    And oh yes, the awesome protectiveness that develops for books we love. It’s like we become a mother bear, protecting it at all costs, even if it means wanting to tear someone to shreds.

  10. oh my gosh! not only is it awful to desperately love a series and then be disappointed, but i’m also so interested in how you and your sis have such divergent views on the book! i find that so interesting and WISH my little sis was a reader so we could compare notes. i’ve read all the sisterhoods but they were a bit after my time so i never quite loved them as much as someone younger (like YOU!!). still, i did enjoy brashares’s adult novel last year. i’m sorry this one wasn’t a favorite–i felt the same way about reviewing bumped by megan mccafferty–it literally pained me to write negative things about her books when i so loved the jessica darling series. as always, i respect your opinion and value your honestly. i think i’ll let this one go unless i happen to see it at the library.

  11. This book was definitely hard for me to read. I ended up really liking it (my review should be up next week). Like you, I literally felt sick to my stomach in some parts due to the anticipation of some of the things I thought might be coming.

  12. Well, I am a big fan of Brashares (I’m currently reading My Name is Memory). She is a fantastic writer. And I love the sisterhood series. Although, when I read Forever in Blue, I wanted more. And I’m glad that this book exists and i can’t wait to read it. I can’t foresee whether I will love it or walk away feeling disappointed, but I am excited to read more about these four girls that in so many ways are unforgettable to me. I’ll be interested to compare notes when I get around to reading this one!

  13. Agree with you 100%. I was very disappointed in the book, not only because of the shocking event that forms the central focus of the plot, but also by how the author sees the characters after the elapse of a ten year period. Not only have they not matured, they all have pretty much dead end jobs if they have jobs at all, except for Carmen, and even Carmen’s job is not particularly fulfilling. All of them depend on some guy to fulfill them and then finally pregnancy is seen as the answer to the anxieties faced by one of them. It seems to me that the successful ones, with powerful careers are the men — Brian, Kostas, Eric all have interesting and successful careers, whereas the women are simply their mates, either depressed, soul-searching or confused, Actually however, the thing that disappointed me most, beyond all of the above, was the lack of humour in this book — one thing I always liked about this series was that the books were funny, the characters could make you laugh and that is why I loved them. The humour in this book was distinctly lacking and frankly it really dragged towards the end as much as I wanted to find out what happened.

  14. I really like this spoiler-free review, because I still understand your reservations about the novel without learning too much about the actual story. I’m not sure if this compliment is coming across properly. Rest assured, this is praise.
    I will read this book, despite my love for the four previous entries of the series, because when I put down Forever in Blue, my heart was hollow at the prospect of their literary lives being over. This has only happened once before, when I finished To Kill a Mockingbird, which does show how much the Septembers mean to me (seeing as how I was born Aug 31 I always felt I would fit in).
    I feel like not reading Sisterhood Everlasting would be the bigger regret compared to finding out I didn’t like how their lives turned out. I am very willing to take that chance, just to satiate my thirst for knowing all about them.

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