3 Willows: the Sisterhood Grows by Ann Brashares is about three girls, Ama, Jo, and Poly who have been friends since the third grade. The story takes place in Bethesda, Maryland which is the same town the Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants series took place. Readers will recognize a few familiar faces from the original series.
Ann Brashares introduces three new girls — Poly, Ama, and Jo who are much younger than the original sisterhood. They are different from Lena, Carmen, Tibby, and Bridget. For instance, the three girls have only been friends since the third grade unlike the original sisterhood who have been friends since birth. Throughout The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants series, the girls were in constant contact through letters, emails, and instant messages. In contrast, the three girls write letters to each other but often cross them out or don’t send them to each other at all. The letters do help to explain their emotions and how they are reluctant to break off their friendship entirely.
Poly has remained unchanged since the day the girls met. She longs for the joyful and carefree times the girls once shared. While Ama and Jo are away for the summer, Poly stays home to earn money by babysitting while attempting to spend more time with her mother. Poly dreams of becoming a model after learning that her grandmother was a model. She decides to use the money she earns for modeling camp. This venture means that she must change a few things about herself. Throughout the summer, she learns family secrets and some painful life lessons.
During the summer before high school, Jo spends her vacation with her mom at the family beach house. She gets a job at the local restaurant and makes friends with the older and “cooler” girls who work there. There are family problems at home, but she chooses to ignore them. Jo experiences a summer romance with a cute boy she meets on the bus. There is an instant connection between them but Zach has to decide if he already has a girlfriend. The girlfriend returns and causes trouble for Jo. After an incident at the restaurant, Jo learns a hard lesson in knowing who her real friends are.
Ama is an overachiever who is trying to step out of the shadow of her older sister Esi. She expects to spend her summer doing research surrounded by books at an academic program. Instead, she is given a scholarship for Wild Adventures in Wyoming. During her time at camp, Ama must learn to face her biggest fear.
I honestly I had high expectations for this novel. 3 Willows: The Sisterhood Grows, is a slow read and nothing really happens until halfway through the book. However, the story is gracefully written. Since the characters were younger than the original sisterhood characters, it was harder for me to relate to. I found Carmen, Lena, Tibby, and Bridget more interesting. They were a lot closer than these girls. Through out the book, it seemed like their friendship was destined to fall apart. It took near-tragedy to bring them back together. Like Jo, we have desires to hang out with the “cooler” crowd. Other readers may feel differently. No matter our age, we have all had to learn the hard way about who our real friends are. 3 Willows: The Sisterhood Grows, may have been a leisurely-paced story, but the author illustrates that like willow trees, it takes time for a friendship to grow.