~ By Melina Kantor

So there I was gathering links for one of our “This Week in Chick Lit” posts when an excellent piece of news appeared on my computer screen. Ann Brashares had a new book coming out! The Sisterhood was back!

I scanned the screen for information on the release date. June 14th. I’d only have to wait a few days, but I knew it was going to feel like an eternity.

I was dying to know what had come of Bea, Lena, Carmen and Tibby over the past ten years, especially since the last time I’d seen them, they’d lost the pair of pants that bonded them and magically fit them all.

Say what you will about the Traveling Pants series, but I’ll admit to being a complete and total fan. I discovered the books as an adult, as a result, I confess, of the movie. Even in movie form, the personalities of the characters shined through, and I couldn’t help but be impressed. I was at Barnes and Noble buying a copy of the book minutes after the movie ended.

Somehow, I identified with all four girls – especially Lena. You see, Lena and I are both Greek, and like Lena, I spent my high school summers in a small Greek village on the water. Somehow, even without have ever visited Greece, Ann Brashares’ description of Lena’s experience was amazingly accurate. (Although I did choose to overlook the fact that if Lena’s grandfather were real, he’d probably eat yoghurt with honey, and not Rice Krispies, for breakfast.)

I’ve since read or listened to each of the books at least twice. So you can imagine why I was happy dancing in my desk chair when I found out about Sisterhood Everlasting.

To sweeten the deal, it seemed the girls were headed back to Greece for a reunion.

But then I saw something in an interview with Ann Brashares that gave me chills. She was describing what it felt like to kill off a character.

No!!!!!!!

Suddenly, I wasn’t so sure I even wanted to read the book.

But how could I NOT read it? I’d come so far with these four girls.

So, on June 14, right on schedule, I downloaded the audio version of the book, which was, coincidentally right on time for my own trip to Greece.

At the beginning of the story, I felt an incredible sense of comfort at being back with the girls. After ten years, they remained true to their characters yet had changed just enough (Carmen’s eyebrows are “a little thinner” and her jeans are “a little tighter”) to show the passage of time.

I was also excited to continue the love stories between Tibby and Brian, Bea and Eric, and (frustrating as their relationship may be) Lena and Kostas.

But Ann Brashares wastes no time. Tragedy strikes from almost the beginning, making the story first and foremost about grief.

I can’t say I agree in any way with the dramatic choice Ann Brashares made, but I can’t fault her for it either. In fact, it’s pretty impressive that even though one of the girls is dead, her character remains true and present in the book.

I do believe that an author knows what’s best for her story. Jennifer Weiner made a similarly controversial choice in Certain Girls, and she’s standing by it.

On the other hand, I also believe an author has to take her readers and their expectations and emotions into consideration.

When I first heard about the book, I pictured myself listening to it while relaxing on a Greek beach. Instead, I listened to it while sitting on my bed in the hotel, feeling drained. Was I cheated?

I’m not sure. . .

What do you think? Have you ever chosen to kill off a character? Have you ever grieved the death of a fictional person?

One last question: Sisterhood Everlasting could easily be considered chick lit. What do you think? Does tragedy have a place in chick lit?

Leave a comment and let us know what you think.

Melina writes contemporary women’s fiction with a pinch of oregano and a dash of chutzpah. By day, she is an elementary school computer teacher. You can visit her at http://melinakantor.com.