3 Willows: The Sisterhood Grows by Ann Brashares

Back in November, I was thrilled to open up my mailbox and find a copy of 3 Willows: The Sisterhood Grows by Ann Brashares. I tore through it that weekend, and enjoyed it quite a bit. 3 Willows is about Polly, Jo, and Ama, old friends who have drifted apart in recent years. This is the story of the summer after eighth grade, and as they learn more about who they are, what they want, and what they can do, they discover that they still need that old friendship, that it grounds them in ways that they are only beginning to understand.

That was what I most liked about this book – the fact that they were still tied together by the past, but the honest admission that we aren’t all like that other Sisterhood, the one with the Pants. We don’t all have friendships that strong over such a long period of time. The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants did show the girls growing apart somewhat over the years, but the starting place for this book was much more relatable for me. One of the reasons I like The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants so much is that it seems so mystical, this group of four girls who have been friends for so long. And one of the reasons I enjoyed 3 Willows was that I know a thing or two about friendships drifting apart, and I liked the ways these girls reconnected.

The three girls in this book are Polly, Jo, and Ama. Polly is the daughter of an artist and decides to spend the summer going to modeling camp. Polly was probably my least favorite character, and I found it hard to relate to her desire to be a model, but I very much understood her body image issues and felt that was explored well. However, I felt her story was wrapped up a little bit too easily. Jo’s family hasn’t been the same since the death of her brother, and Jo spends the summer with her mother at their beach house, working as a busgirl. I liked Jo because she wanted so much to be included in the cool crowd, and she wasn’t sure how her old friends could fit into her new life. And Ama, who was my favorite, ends up on an outdoor adventure trip when she really wanted to be inside. With books. And hair-care products. You can see why she was my favorite.

Books that are about friendship are, in the end, mostly about knowing and being known. Friendship is an issue I have struggled with for years because I wanted something unattainable. I wanted to know that people are going to be in my life forever. I have started to make peace with the fact that certain relationships are only in my life for a season, or are never going to progress to the point that I would like. Even so, I can learn from the people who are in my life right now. What I enjoyed the most about 3 Willows was the idea that knowing and being known over a long period of time is important, even if you aren’t as close as you once were. Polly, Jo, and Ama planted trees together in elementary school, and though they have not tended the trees like they should, the roots are as deep and intertwined as their shared past. Sometimes, there is nothing that can help you through the present like a friend who already knows all of your stories.

This book had to grow on me a little bit more than the original Sisterhood book did, but I found myself caring quite a bit about these girls by the end. I look forward to seeing what happens to them next.

3 Willows will be released on January 13.

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