I think this is about when I should admit that even though I’m a grown-up, I really couldn’t wait to get back to reading this each time I put it down. The style that Ann Brahsares uses really compels you to keep reading. As with the earlier books, she flips between the story arcs of the different characters. Often, she’ll leave a character right when something interesting is about to happen. And then you find yourself saying, well, I could just keep reading until we get back to Tibby’s story. But then something really interesting will be about to happen to Lena, and you think, or I could just keep going until I find out about Lena again. Addictive. Alternately, it could encourage page flipping and skim reading, but I think for a lot of teens this style of writing will make this series hard to put down.
Again, we skip the school year, and find ourselves in the final summer of high school, with the girls preparing to head off to college.
Sex, Nudity, Dating – As you would expect, there is continued partial nudity, with the girls going swimming in their underwear this time, and one girl bringing a boy to swim with her. There’s more kissing, talking of feeling physical attraction for others and plenty of talk about one boy wanting a girl, his eyes lingering on her breasts. Two characters discuss their prior sexual relationship. A 17 year old is involved with a 21 year old and hopes they one day make love. As in the first book in the series, the age difference here is something that may require discussion as one participant is under 18 and the other is over 18.
One of the girls gets a sibling. We are there for the whole labor which is described in detail, including use of the terms contractions and cervix. After the baby is born the mother puts it to her breast.
Profanity – “damn” used twice, “for God’s sake,” “ass,” “so help you God,” “dang it,” “hell”
Death, Violence and Gore – A secondary character reveals that he had a baby brother who died.
Drugs, Alcohol and Smoking – We’re told that leaving art supplies out for an artist is like leaving “drugs out for an addict.” Lena tells us that observing someone closely is either like poetry or “like getting really, really stoned.” We continue to hear about the family member with an alcohol problem (very minor subplot).
Frightening or Intense Things – A young child falls out of a window and has a fractured skull, wrist and collarbone, but is ultimately okay.