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Brashares on sex in final ‘Traveling Pants’

The author says she wanted to tackle girls doing ‘too much too soon’
/ Source: TODAY

Ann Brashares’ young adult book series, “The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants,” has more than 8 million copies in print. It picked up even more fans with the successful 2005 movie. The fourth and final novel in the series is “Forever in Blue.” Brashares answered TODAY’s questions about why she decided to end the series, her new novel — for adults — and the sequel to her first movie.

TODAY: Is “Forever in Blue” really the last book of the “Traveling Pants” series? If so, why did you decide to end it?

Ann  Brashares: Yes, it really is. If you read it you’ll find out why. I set out to write a story in four parts, and the way I see it, a story has to have an ending. It isn’t quite a story until it does.

TODAY: You have said that you see yourself in the characters Carmen and Tibby. How are they like you?

Brashares: I gave Carmen a bit of my own life experience. I lived through divorce at a young age and stepfamilies. The people and the circumstances in my life are quite different from Carmen’s, but some of the feelings are the same.

As for Tibby, I gave her certain of my weaknesses — a difficulty, sometimes, being brave about love in the face of doubt. Weaknesses are easier to fix in your characters than in yourself it turns out.

TODAY: This book is the first one in the series that includes sex. You’ve said that it is definitely not meant for 11-year-olds. Was it difficult to introduce sex in this series? Do you think you will lose readers?

Brashares: The characters are already in college. I don’t think it’s realistic or right to sidestep the subject of sex.  I try not to moralize, but at the same time I want to show the consequences of doing too much too soon. Love is thrilling, but sex with the wrong person or at the wrong time is an easy way to mess yourself up — to abandon your power and your sense of self.

As far as losing readers, I’m OK with it. I’d rather sell fewer books than sell them to girls who aren’t ready for them. Maybe they’ll find me again later.

TODAY: Some books for teen girls have been criticized for including too much sex and adult content? Do you think it’s difficult to write to this age, especially with so many other distractions like MySpace, iPods, and TV.

Brashares: I think the trouble is not so much including sex, but the way you include it.   I think it’s wrong to be explicit or gratuitous or present it as though it’s not a big deal.  It is a big deal.

And yes, there are many distractions for these girls, but I maintain hope.  I hope that if we provide books that are fun, absorbing and also good, they will read them.

TODAY: What authors do you recommend for teen girls? Judy Blume?

Brashares: I love Judy Blume’s books for teen girls.  I also love Katherine Paterson and Rob Thomas.

TODAY: Your next book, “The Last Summer (of You and Me),” coming out in May, is an adult book. Why did you want to write an adult novel? Do you think your teen readers will be your audience?

Brashares: I think I was ready to grow up a little bit as a writer.  Certain things I held back from doing in my young adult books because of the likely age of some of the readers.

That said, “Last Summer” isn’t radically different from the books I’ve published so far.  The characters are a bit older and the story is a bit more sophisticated, but I go back to the same old subjects I love to write about — love, loss, growing up.  I hope my older readers will enjoy it. 

TODAY: There’s been talk of a sequel to the movie, “Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants.” When do you expect it to be releases? And will the same actresses star in the film?

Brashares: Yes, that talk is happening, although I don’t think it is definitive. If a sequel does happen, I’m pretty sure the actresses will return. I hope they will. I thought they were wonderful.

To read an excerpt of “Forever in Blue,” visit the publisher’s