This summer, two of my favorite teen authors have taken their talents into the realm of adult fiction. Ann Brashares is taking her popular Sisterhood series into the world of young adulthood, and Melissa de la Cruz is expanding her Blue Bloods universe, where vampires are really immortal fallen angels and witches may not just be ordinary witches.
Sisterhood Everlasting by Ann Brashares (Random House, 2011)
In 2001, Ann Brashares published Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants, the story of four best friends — Carmen, Tibby, Bridget, and Lena — spending their first summer apart but staying connected through a magical pair of jeans that fits them each perfectly (even though they all have different body types). In the 10 years since, the series has spawned three more teen books, two films, and now Sisterhood Everlasting.
When we last left the four friends in Forever in Blue (book four in the series), they were in Greece looking for their lost pair of magical pants and finding comfort and connection in their unbreakable bond. Now it is 10 years later. They are 28 years old and, while they are all still friends, they are not as connected as they used to be. Drama queen Carmen is an actress on a New York based TV show and engaged to be married; free spirit Bridget is living with her boyfriend in San Francisco; shy Lena is living alone and teaching art in Providence, Rhode Island; and sarcastic Tibby has moved to Australia. In fact, it has been two years since Tibby left them so suddenly, and they have barely heard from her — only a few e-mails here and there — but all that is about to change. Out of the blue, Tibby sends each of them a mysterious letter and a plane ticket for Greece, asking them meet her for a long overdue reunion.
To say too much more would give the plot away. However, I can say that it is evident how much the author cares for her characters by the gentle honesty and truth that she leads each character to, and in the end, leads the reader to as well. The characters are flawed and real in ways that we — and those around us — are flawed. I found myself yelling, “Just call him!” or “I can’t believe she just did that!” as I read the book. Hindsight is, as they say, 20/20. It is so easy to see the past clearly or pass judgment when it is not your problem, but not nearly as easy when you are in the thick of it. That holds true in our own lives and in the lives of Carmen, Bridget, Lena, and Tibby as well.
It can also be true to say that friends grow apart even if they still love each other, and the opposite of love is not hate, but apathy. The girls did not grow apart so much as away from each other, getting lost in the minutia of daily life. There is no apathy here either. In fact, there is so much love it is practically swimming off the page. It is the love we have for the characters, the author’s care in her writing, and the love the characters have for each other. The pair of magical pants may be gone, but the Sisterhood survives.
More adult books like this: The Last Summer (of You and Me) by Ann Brashares, Summer Sisters by Judy Blume, The Island by Elin Hilderbrand, The Life You've Imagined by Kristina Riggle and Commencement and Maine both by J. Courtney Sullivan.
The Witches of East End (The Beauchamp Family series, volume one) by Melissa de la Cruz (Hyperion, 2011)
In Melissa de la Cruz’s very popular Blue Bloods series, we traverse the world with her rich, glamorous, and angsty immortal creatures. But in The Witches of East End, we only go as far as the east end of Long Island — the unfashionable end. Joanna Beauchamp and her two daughters Ingrid, 30, and Freya, 22, reside in the sleepy, mist-shrouded hamlet of North Hampton. All three women lead quiet, uneventful lives, but they are also hiding a big secret. They are powerful witches who were banned centuries ago from using their powers. Joanna is a healer and can raise the dead, bookish Ingrid is a weaver and can help women with anything from infidelity to infertility, and impulsive Freya can concoct a charm or potion to heal any heartache. However, the delicate balance with which they each conduct their lives is about to be upended.
It all starts innocently enough. Freya, newly engaged, finds herself dangerously attracted to her fiance's younger brother. Her romantic turmoil makes it hard for her to mask her abilities, and before she knows it, her cocktails and love potions are all the rage at the local bar. Ingrid sees her sister using her powers and wants to use hers to help her friend get pregnant. But once Ingrid's friend is pregnant, it only leads more women to her for assistance. Joanna knows that her daughters are in danger of breaking the pact that binds them, but she only wants to entertain the young boy she babysits, so she too begins to use her powers again. It would seem that they are home free, that they can use their magic without penalty, but sinister events begin to plague the town. The three women realize that if they are to continue living in North Hampton, they must figure out what dark forces are working against them.
Hmmm… have I given too much away? I don’t think so. For a book of only 275 pages, it is rich with a new mythology and life in a small town. There is a magical or surreal quality to the story too — as in, you know this place could exist but it is just outside of reality. One of the things I like best about Melissa de la Cruz's writing is her sense of the absurd. Sure her characters may be beautiful, immortal, and have supernatural powers, but they are just as human and, well, stupid, as you and me. For all their magical abilities, Freya and Ingrid just can’t seem to get it together, and that makes this supernatural tale all the more fun to read. I also enjoyed the ending: just when I thought it was going to zig, it zagged instead and left the door open for more magical adventures to follow.
P.S. To all the Blue Bloods fans out there, you will find a few cameos of your favorite characters in the novel, so watch for them!
More adult books like this: Practical Magic by Alice Hoffman, A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness, The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane by Katherine Howe, and The Witch’s Daughter by Paula Brackston.