Friday, October 16, 2009

3 Willows

Biblio Bits 3 Willows by Ann Brashares, Random House/Listening Library, 2009 (ISBN 9780739380420)

Reading Level/Interest Age 700 lexile/ages 12-14

Genre Realistic fiction

Format Audio book

Plot Summary
Ama, Polly, and Jo used to be best friends. Now, it's the summer before high school and each one has gone her seperate way. Jo will spend the summer at the family beach house with her mom, working as a busgirl. Ama will be attending a prestigious summer program on scholarship. Polly will be home, babysitting. But each neat plan is somehow disrupted: Jo's dad will not be coming with them this summer, since her parents are in a trial separation; Ama's summer program turns out to be a wilderness adventure course, not the academic acceleration she was hoping for; Polly becomes obsessed with her body image, convinced that she should attend modeling camp. Each story has its triumphs and heartbreaks as the girls make important self-discoveries, and over the summer they begin to understand the role their lost friendship has played in their lives.

Critical Evaluation
Geared towards a slightly younger audience than The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants, this book (presumably first in a new series) was less cohesive. The story threads were engaging, but it seemed like unrealistic that the three girls would be able to find their way back to each other after so long an absence. The willow analogy felt a bit forced, with willow lore interspersed with the sections of the book. Each story thread had such a textbook teen problem (overcoming fears, dysfunctional families, and body image issues) that I felt a little preached to. Readers will enjoy the appearance of Effie (Lena's younger sister from the Sisterhood books), though she plays the mean girl here; her character is not explored, rightfully, as we see her from Jo's point of view. The reader of the audio book did a fine job conveying the various voices in a convincing way. But overall, I didn't feel the same level of engagement with these girls that I did with the Sisterhood.

Reader's Annotation
It's the summer before high school and so much has changed between Ama, Polly, and Jo: they used to be best friends but now have very different goals. How will they deal with the summer's challenges, successes, and failures without each other?

Author Information
Ann Brashares grew up in Maryland and studied philosophy at Barnard College in New York City. After graduation, Brashares took a job at a publishing house to save money for graduate school. It turned out she had a knack for editing and decided to stay in her position. Brashares wrote the Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants books which have become international best-sellers. (Information in this author biography was gleaned from the author's official website at Random House.)

Challenge issues
There is family alcoholism, depression, divorce, anorexia, and kissing a near-stranger on a bus in this title. Any of those might be cause for someone to have objections.

Booktalking Ideas
Chances are, as with any Sarah Dessen book, you probably won't have to booktalk this one: fans of Brashares will be eager to snatch this book of the shelf and get reading. And then they'll recommend it and booktalk it to their friends and you won't keep this book on the shelf for long. If I was forced to booktalk this book, however, I would probably link it to other titles in which fears and challenges are confronted in a contemporary, realistic setting.

Curriculum Ties
This title would be very much at home in a middle school health unit or perhaps a mother-daughter bookclub because there is a lot to discuss and talk about. Issues like body image and anorexia and imperfect families are played out in this story in an accessible way that tweens will relate to.

Why this book?
I was curious about how Brashares would create a new "sisterhood," in light of the success of the Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants series. Fans will be curious too. The simple cover was another appeal factor for me.


Rockport Public Library owns?

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