Everyone, except maybe Peter Pan, has to grow up, and that includes Carmen, Tibby, Lena, and Bee. For these four friends, growing up encompasses all kinds of things: a pregnancy scare, learning what “home” means, thinking about why you selfishly hurt the people around you who have what you don’t, finding out who you are when your friends aren’t around to define you. Most of all, they learn, again, about friendship and love. Loving your family, getting over old heartbreak, getting past the first glow of a relationship, and, of course, learning what true friendship looks like.
This book, more than any of the others, made me wish I could go back and do some of this over – investing in the people who matter rather than the people who are only thinking about themselves, being a more sacrificial friend, learning much sooner what it looks like to care for my friends and family, not letting other people define me, learning how to stand up for myself. These girls are lucky that their friends help them know who they really are, but it took me a lot longer to find people who could help me do that. When I finished it, it’s not an exaggeration to say that I ached a bit to go back and make some of that right. But if there’s a message in the books, it’s that you can’t go back, you have to take what you have made of your life and, with the help of those around you, keep going forward.
I don’t want to give away the ending, but this is the end of the series, which is fitting – the girls learn in this book that they use the pants to push each other away as well as to keep them together. A good lesson for all of us to learn – not to let the things we do with our friends and family be the things that keep us from actually communicating with them.