Brashares, Ann 1967-
Brashares, Ann 1967-
Born 1967, in Chevy Chase, MD; married Jacob Collins (a portrait painter); children: Sam, Nathaniel, Susannah. Education: Barnard College, B.A. (philosophy).
Best Book for Young Adults citation, American Library Association, and Book Sense Book of the Year designation, both 2002, both for The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants.
The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants (young-adult novel), Delacorte (New York, NY), 2001.
Linus Torvalds: Software Rebel (juvenile nonfiction; "Techies" series), Twenty-first Century Books (Brookfield, CT), 2001.
Steve Jobs: Think Different (juvenile nonfiction; "Techies" series), Twenty-first Century Books (Brookfield, CT), 2001.
The Second Summer of the Sisterhood (young-adult novel) Delacorte (New York, NY), 2003.
Girls in Pants: The Third Summer of the Sisterhood (young-adult novel) Delacorte (New York, NY), 2005.
Forever in Blue: The Fourth Summer of the Sisterhood (young-adult novel) Delacorte (New York, NY), 2007.
The Last Summer (of You and Me) (adult novel) Riverhead Books (New York, NY), 2007.
Contributor to periodicals, including CosmoGirl! and Writer.
The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants was adapted for audiocassette by Listening Library, 2002, and adapted for film by Delia Ephron and Elizabeth Chandler, Warner Bros., 2005. Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants 2, produced 2008, was also based on Brashares' novels. Film tie-ins include The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants: The Official Scrapbook and Keep in Touch: Letters, Notes, and More from The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants, both Delacorte, 2005.
Beginning her career as a book editor and the author of two juvenile biographies, Ann Brashares became a publishing phenomenon with her first young-adult novel, The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants. Released in 2001, Brashares' first novel introduces four teen friends who agree to send a pair of secondhand jeans from friend to friend during the first summer they are to be separated. These traveling pants thus take on a metaphoric quality, uniting the best friends across the thousands of miles separating them.
One of four siblings, Brashares grew up in Chevy Chase, Maryland, where she and her three brothers attended Sidwell Friends, a Quaker school near Washington, DC. As a child, she was an avid reader, enjoying the works of Jane Austen, Charles Dickens, and other nineteenth-century writers. "When I was a kid, I had a scrapbook that I used to write letters in from places I wished I could have gone," Brashares recalled on Random House's Sisterhood Web site. "I would imagine being in Argentina and then write about all the incredible things I was seeing there."
Attending Barnard College, Brashares majored in philosophy and also met her future husband, artist Jacob Collins. After graduation, she took a year off before graduate school, planning to save money to pay for tuition. However, the job she took, working as an editor at a book packager, was such a good fit that Brashares never returned to school. Instead, she established a career in publishing, working in children's books.
As an extension of her editorial work, Brashares gained authorial experience on the biographies Steve Jobs: Think Different and Linus Torvalds: Software Rebel. "I hadn't at any point considered myself an author of nonfiction," she related to Dave Weich in a Powells.com interview. However, when the opportunity arose at work to create texts for two biographies, Brashares "decided to try it. I was wearing a certain hat to do that project, and it was really fun."
Part of Twenty-first Century Books' "Techies" series, Brashares' biographies briefly profile of well-known computer and software pioneers. Steve Jobs focuses on the man whose name is synonymous with Apple computers and Macintosh. Brashares traces Jobs's life from his youth traveling around the world to his collaboration with fellow techie Steve Wozniak in building prototype computers in a garage on the way to developing Apple Computers. Linus Torvalds introduces readers to the Finnish mastermind behind the open-source operating system known as Linux. Torvalds' teamwork approach to programming and the free access he allows to his operating system caused a revolution in computing. Reviewing Steve Jobs in Voice of Youth Advocates, Susan H. Levine praised the book's "breezy style, short length, large font, numerous photographs, and attractive page design." Similarly, Yapha Nussbaum Mason, writing in School Library Journal, called Linus Torvalds "fairly short and definitely accessible," and "appeal[ing] not only to report writers, but also to recreational readers."
Brashares' first novel was inspired by a story she heard from a coworker. One summer, when the woman was a teen, she and her friends had shared a pair of pants, although the pants were ultimately lost in Borneo. Brashares had her own experience with shared clothing, as she recalled on the BookBrowse Web site. When she was planning her marriage, the sister of a friend offered her own bridal gown. Brashares at first turned down the offer, especially as the woman's own marriage had not been successful. When this persistent donor came by with the wedding dress in question, Brashares discovered that it was the exact dress she had been dreaming of. She wore it at her own wedding, and subsequently loaned it to other friends, creating a sort of "bond of the bridal gown." Taking these experiences together and mixing in a measure of her own teenage angst and problems, Brashares came up with her story about a fictional pair of pants that fit every body type and make the wearer feel loved. She worked up a cast of characters to wear her magic pants, and an outline—a mixture of Greek myth and themes from movies such as It's a Wonderful Life—and then took the project to Random House, whose editors liked the idea.
The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants recounts the adventures of Carmen, Lena, Bridget, and Tibby, fifteen year olds who decide to share a pair of jeans as a way of keeping their friendship alive during their first summer apart. The girls' mothers became friends while attending the same aerobics class and the four girls have become bosom buddies, meeting in the gym while their mothers attended class. This summer, the four teens will be separated for the first time: Carmen is planning to go to South Carolina and visit her divorced father; Lena is off to Greece to be with her grandparents; Bridget will be working out at a soccer camp in Baja California; and Tibby will remain at home in Washington, DC, working in the local Wallman's drugstore. Before departure, Carmen has purchased a pair of jeans at a local thrift shop. She decides to toss them. Then Tibby, Lena, and Bridget try on the pants, and they fit each in turn, even Carmen, who thinks she never looks good in anything. Because each has a distinctly different body type, the friends decide that these must be magic pants. The night before departure, they form the Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants, agreeing to a set of rules and behavior regarding the treatment and wearing of the pants. Each friend will wear the pants for a week, and then send them on to the next wearer. The pants become a link between the members of the sisterhood.
Although the thrift-store jeans seem magical at first, the four girls soon realize that they cannot help solve the problems each encounters that summer; such solutions must come from inner understanding. The pants, however, serve as a reminder that none of the friends are alone. Each girl learns to deal with individual problems, gaining elemental life lessons in the process. Carmen's dream of spending time alone with her dad is thwarted when she discovers he is on the verge of marrying into a brand new family in South Carolina. In Greece, Lena falls for Kostos, a family friend, but their relationship becomes marred when she mistakenly accuses him of spying on her while she is skinny dipping. Bridget also has romantic problems, falling in love with one of the camp counselors even though that is off-limits according to camp rules. Meanwhile, Tibby, who has stayed home, befriends a young girl named Bailey, who is suffering from leukemia. These two start making a documentary film about odd but interesting people, but when Bailey takes ill and is hospitalized, Tibby is confronted with the specter of death for the first time.
As Brashares noted on Random House's Sisterhood Web site, her fictional characters grew out of different parts of her own personality: "Carmen was the girl who said things I could never say and Bridget was the girl who did things I would never do." Speaking with Weich, she also noted that she wanted to use the idea of the pants as a "repository of friendship—love, hope, challenges, all of those things." She also remarked to Weich that stay-at-home Tibby is the one who seems to grow and learns the most about herself during this one turbulent summer. "She's the one who's shaken up the most," Brashares commented. "The idea that that can happen at home was something I wanted to present."
Brashares' unique coming-of-age novel won critical praise from New York Times reviewer Christine Leahy, who called the characters in The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants "winning and precocious." The critic also praised Brashares' narrative pace, noting that the "story zips along, bouncing faster than the jeans from girl to girl." Linda Bindner, reviewing the title in School Library Journal, also noted the author's story-telling skills, remarking that she "deftly moves from narrative to narrative, weaving together themes from the mundane to the profoundly important." Bindner called The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants a "complex book about a solid group of friends," while in Horn Book Jennifer M. Brabander praised the life lessons included in the "breezy feel-good" novel. In a review for Publishers Weekly a contributor concluded that Brashares' "outstanding and vivid book … will stay with readers for a long time."
Brashares' four heroines return in The Second Summer of the Sisterhood. Now sixteen, Bridget is heading to Alabama, Lena is still spending time with Kostos, Carmen dreads that her mother will make a fool of herself over a man, and Tibby takes a film course instead of spending another summer working at Wallman's. Writing in Horn Book, Jennifer M. Brabander suggested that "fans of the first book … will eagerly travel with the sisterhood again." Citing the author's ability to present a realistic, "hopeful book, easy to read and gentle in its important lessons," Booklist critic Frances Bradburn predicted that "readers will want" the girls to return for another season of shared sisterhood.
Like she did in her first novel, Brashares takes a lighthearted look at serious topics in The Second Summer of the Sisterhood. "I feel as though there are a lot of books trying very hard to deal with social issues—illness or social ills, all kinds of shocking things—and in some part of my mind I knew that I didn't want to do that," the author told Weich. "I wanted to write a book that wasn't insubstantial but wasn't really issues-driven, either. I hope I did that." On the Sisterhood Web site, Brashares concluded of her teen novels that she hopes they are the sort to "stick with [readers] a bit, the way books I liked when I was that age stuck with me. If there's a message, I guess it's just this: love yourself and your friends unconditionally."
Carmen, Lena, Bridget, and Tibby reunite again, this time as high-school graduates, in Girls in Pants: The Third Summer of the Sisterhood. As they begin preparation for their first year at four different colleges, the "starring role … goes to those unbreakable bonds of Sisterhood that carry the girls through all kinds of family and boyfriend dramas," according to Brabander. Carmen's plans for college have to be downscaled when her mother becomes pregnant, Bridget links up with an old flame during summer soccer camp, Tibby feels responsible when her little sister takes a traumatic fall from an open window, and Lena struggles to pay for art school after her father balks at paying for lessons that involve nude models. A good choice for "those wanting light fare," according to School Library Journal contributor Linda L. Plevak, Girls in Pants focuses primarily on romances that "end happily." Describing the series as "delightful," Kliatt contributor Claire Rosser added that the enjoyment comes from its cast; "each girl is … thoughtful, articulate, attractive," and inspired by a unique "set of talents and interests." Brashares "encourages her readers to look, feel, trust, and empathize" with the exploits of the novel's "fascinating" teen characters, according to Booklist contributor Frances Bradburn in a review of Girls in Pants.
The summer after their freshman year reunites the four friends for the last time in Forever in Blue: The Fourth Summer of the Sisterhood. Life is taking each of the young women in very different directions: While summering in Rhode Island, Lena is still emotionally tied to Kostos, even though she has been hurt by his infidelity; Carmen gains self-confidence when her job backstage during a Vermont theatre festival leads to a starring role; Tibby's romantic relationship ends in drama during a summer of acting classes; and Bridget is pursuing her interest in both archaeology and the handsome Eric while working on a dig in Turkey. The pants "play a more prominent role" in this concluding volume, serving as a catalyst as they pass from girl to girl. Their magic "fit" imbues the novel with a "fairytale spirit" that transforms the story into "an ode to love and friendship," according to a Kirkus Reviews writer. As Plevak wrote, "fans who already identify" with Brashares' teen heroines will enjoy "their latest exploits." In Booklist, Gillan Engberg dubbed Forever in Blue "a strong, satisfying conclusion that won't disappoint fans."
After the final installment in her "Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants" series, Brashares turned to older readers in The Last Summer (of You and Me). "A thoughtful coming-of-age story," according to Library Journal contributor Teresa L. Jacobsen, the novel focuses on twenty-one-year-old Alice and older sister Riley. The young women have a complex history with the handsome Paul, who has lived next door to their family's summer home on Fire Island since childhood. With the death of his father, Paul is now contemplating selling his family's house, thereby breaking his tie to the two sisters. As long-held summer traditions are threatened, romance, jealousy, conflicting loyalties, indifference, and mental instability all factor in a story that eventually leads to tragedy. As Brashares weaves a dual narrative around the novel's pivotal scene, she captures the three characters' "changing relationships" amid their upscale setting with a "spare" prose that evokes a "believable and easy familiarity."
Biographical and Critical Sources
Booklist, August, 2001, Frances Bradburn, review of The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants, p. 2106; January 1, 2002, review of The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants, p. 764; April 15, 2003, Frances Bradburn, review of The Second Summer of Sisterhood, p. 1461; December 15, 2004, Frances Bradburn, review of Girls in Pants: The Third Summer of the Sisterhood, p. 738; December 15, 2006, Gillian Engberg, review of Forever in Blue: The Fourth Summer of the Sisterhood, p. 48.
Bookseller, March 15, 2002, Jennifer Taylor, "Strong Contenders," p. S31.
Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books, March, 2005, Elizabeth Bush, review of Girls in Pants, p. 282; May, 2007, Elizabeth Bush, review of Forever in Blue, p. 361.
Entertainment Weekly, June 10, 2005, Jessica Shaw, "Forever in Blue Jeans: The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants … Hopes to Find a Perfect Fit on the Big Screen," p. 40.
Horn Book, November-December, 2001, Jennifer M. Brabander, review of The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants, pp. 741-742; May-June, 2003, Jennifer M. Brabander, review of The Second Summer of Sisterhood, p. 339; March-April, 2005, Jennifer M. Brabander, review of Girls in Pants, p. 198.
Journal of Adolescent and Adult Literacy, September, 2002, James Blasingame, review of The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants, pp. 87-88.
Kirkus Reviews, August 1, 2001, review of The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants, p. 1117; November 15, 2006, review of The Fourth Summer of the Sisterhood, p. 1172; April 15, 2007, review of The Last Summer (of You and Me).
Kliatt, March, 2003, Claire Rosser, review of The Second Summer of the Sisterhood; January, 2005, Claire Rosser, review of Girls in Pants; January, 2007, Claire Rosser, review of Forever in Blue, p. 10.
Library Journal, April 1, 2007, Teresa L. Jacobsen, review of The Last Summer (of You and Me), p. 78.
New York Times, March 10, 2002, Christine Leahy, review of The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants, p. 7; January 4, 2007, Fred A. Bernstein, "Art above and Below, with Life in the Middle" (profile).
Publishers Weekly, July 16, 2001, review of The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants, p. 182; December 24, 2001, Diane Roback, "Flying Starts," p. 30; March 25, 2002, Daisy Maryles, "A YA Debut Makes Five," p. 18; September 30, 2002, "Have Pants, Will Travel," p. 30; March 3, 2003, review of The Second Summer of the Sisterhood, p. 77; January, 2005, Linda L. Plevak, review of Girls in Pants, p. 122; November 20, 2006, review of The Fourth Summer of the Sisterhood, p. 60; February, 2007, Linda L. Plevak, review of Forever in Blue, p. 115; April 2, 2007, review of The Last Summer (of You and Me), p. 38.
School Library Journal, August, 2001, Linda Bindner, review of The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants, p. 175; December, 2001, Yapha Nussbaum Mason, review of Linus Torvalds: Software Rebel, p. 153; May, 2003, Susan W. Hunter, review of The Second Summer of Sisterhood, p. 144.
U.S. News and World Report, May 12, 2003, Holly J. Morris, "Flying by the Seat of Her Pants," p. 8.
Voice of Youth Advocates, August, 2001, Susan H. Levine, review of Steve Jobs: Think Different; October, 2001, Deana Rutherford, review of The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants, p. 272; August, 2003, review of The Second Summer of the Sisterhood, p. 217; February, 2007, Angie Hammond, review of Forever in Blue, p. 521.
Writer, August, 2007, Kara Gebhart Uhl, "One Leg at a Time" (interview), pp. 58-62.
Barnard College Alumna in Action Web site,http://alum.barnard.edu/ (May 23, 2005), interview with Brashares.
BookBrowse,http://www.bookbrowse.com/ (February 2, 2003), "Ann Brashares."
Powells.com,http://www.powells.com/ (September 7, 2001), Dave Weich, interview with Brashares.
Random House Sisterhood Web Site,http://www.randomhouse.com/teens/sisterhood/ (March 15, 2008), "Ann Brashares."