3 Willows: The Sisterhood Grows by Ann Brashares (NY: Random House-Listening Library, 2009).
This novel shares a setting with and a few tangential connections to Brashares's previous series, The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants, but readers (or listeners in the case of the audio version) need not have any knowledge of that series to enjoy 3 Willows. Here three friends, Jo, Polly, and Ama, have grown apart, though they still often think nostalgically of their former closeness--including the time at the end of third grade when they planted their class project willow trees in the woods. They're definitely going in different directions during this summer before they start high school. Ama had wanted to attend an academic achievement camp, but finds herself heading out west to an outdoors adventure camp that's way outside her comfort zone, facing challenges she never wanted to face, including life without hair products and major blisters from her hiking boots. Jo's parents are separating, and she and her mom are going to spend the summer at their beach house. Jo has a job bussing tables at a local seafood restaurant plus she's hooking up with one of the waiters who she met on a bus. Meanwhile, Polly casts about for something to keep her more grounded than her absent mother, faded friendships, and endless babysitting jobs and happens upon a modeling camp that seems to promise exciting changes.
As in her previous series, Brashares presents different characters facing different challenges who somehow engage and help each other in spite of their differences. I never cared for the magical element of the traveling pants, so I actually liked this novel's focus on the real problems these girls face. Polly's issues seem particularly poignant, while Ama adds a lot of humor with her distaste for camping and her overachiever's horror at the prospect of being graded for rappelling skills she has no desire to cultivate. Jo seems the most independent of the bunch, but in the end she finds herself needing the stabilizing connection of an old friendship, too, especially once she discovers the flimsiness of her summer fling. A fine read for ages 12 & up. Sexual situations, language, alcohol.
I read a lot, especially kid and young adult lit. This blog will review what I've been reading. I get most of my reading material from the library, plus I buy books at school book fairs and the usual stores. I look for freebies on Amazon for my Kindle, and I'm happy to review any ARCs or e-galleys I can get my hands on.