The second of the Travelling Pants books by Ann Brashares, this book opens on the first day of summer, with Bridget, Lena, Carmen and Tibby getting together to perform the ritual of the pants. Last summer they all went away except for Tibby. This year she is the only one who is going away (to film school), whilst the other girls are all staying home in Washington.
However, Bridget somewhat impulsively decides that she needs to go to Alabama, after finding letters from her grandma that her father had not given her. Bridget is much changed from the girl that we met at the beginning of last summer. She no longer plays soccer, long her first love, and she has dyed her blonde hair brown, and gained some weight. Through her journey over the summer she learns a lot about her family, and that she was trying to hide away from herself. Interestingly, when she goes to Alabama she chooses to not reveal her true identity to her grandmother, but instead pretends to be someone looking for a job and therefore helps her grandmother clear out her attic. Eventually she meets some of the other kids she knew when she was a little girl, and begins to come back to herself, even if it takes facing and dealing with a traumatic memory from her past to get back to herself.
Since last summer Lena has been in love with a Greek boy, Kostos, who she met on Santorini. Before the summer started, she broke up with him, and if anyone asks why she goes along with the "long distance relationships are too hard" routine. When Kostos unexpectedly turns up at her door, Lena is terrified. How can she allow herself to love him when he is going to leave again so soon. And he does leave after a blissful week, but not for the reasons that Lena expects, and she is hurt in so many ways. He only tells her that he has a situation but will explain everything later. With Lena's story we get to see the effects of heartbreak, in a romantic sense, but also in a familial sense, when her grandfather falls critically ill and her family have to race to Santorini. There she meets Kostos again, and finds out the truth about his circumstances. All through this time, Lena is trying to find out about a story from her mother's past that she would rather not talk about, causing problems between the remaining mothers of the four girls (Bridget's mother having died years earlier), but eventually all is resolved, but it is a reminder to the girls that there mothers are human too.
Carmen is also about to learn that her mother is human, when she starts dating a work colleague, and Carmen suddenly discovers that she is not ready to give up the close, exclusive relationship that she has with her mother, even if it makes her mother upset to lose the man that she loves. Carmen is also trying to date Porter, but has to work out why she is doing this, and come to a realisation about relationships with boys.
Tibby goes off to film school, and begins to make new friends, but her lessons this year are about the nature of true friendships, and that means that at some point she must look back to last summer and the death of Bailey. Luckily she has Brian around to help her with this, unless she pushes him away because he is not cool enough that is! After making a humiliating film of her mother that Brian hates, but her new friends think is cool, Tibby is forced to reevaluate after seeing her mother's reaction to the film, and to face truths about herself, and to deal with the events of last summer.
Whilst these books are light they are very enjoyable and they do deal with plenty of issues relevant to the target age group, including dealing with relationships of divorced parents, death of loved ones, teenage sex. If there is one thing that I don't get though, it is that it seems that both this summer and last summer, 16 year olds are allowed to wander wherever they like over America without anyone worrying about their safety! Bridget just jumps on a bus to Alabama, hires a hotel room and lives there by herself for several weeks before she moves in with her grandma. Last summer, Lena and her sister were coming back from Greece and Lena just flew off to where Bridget was because she was having problems. I doubt that that is how it really is, and it is but a small criticism.
I am hoping to go and rent the DVD for the movie of the first book, and get the third book in the series out soon. Only problem is the third book isn't out on audiobook at my library so I am actually going to have to read it, as opposed to listening to it!