3 Willows

Book review by
Stephanie Dunnewind, Common Sense Media
3 Willows Book Poster Image
Sisterhood author writes sweet new book about friendship.

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Kids say

age 12+
Based on 4 reviews

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

May help parents talk about issues ranging from eating disorders to alcoholism to divorce. See our "Families Can Talk About" section for more ideas and resources. 

Positive Messages

Ultimately there are several positive social messages about being a good friend and staying true to yourself. 

Positive Role Models & Representations

These girls certainly go through things, act mean, and make bad choices, but in the end they learn to accept themselves and their evolving -- but still strong -- friendships.


Dating and crushes -- but unlike the Sisterhood series, the physical stuff stops at kissing and there is no sex.


"Hell," "bitch."


A few mentions of specific Ivy League colleges and brand names such as Seven, iPod, 7-Eleven, Slurpee, and Kiehl's hair creme. Also references to characters in the author's other books.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Jo tries to get her older co-workers to come over to her empty house by telling them "the liquor cabinet is full." Jo knows she would get in "huge trouble" for raiding the liquor cabinet but she does it anyway. In other ways alcohol is certainly not glamorized:  Polly's mom makes herself drinks such as gin and tonic and when Polly discovers her passed out, she must take her to the hospital. The doctor tells her her mother is an alcoholic and must go into an alcohol treatment center.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that this book from the author of The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants ultimately delivers positive messages about doing what's right, making good choices, taking chances, and accepting oneself. Along the way, the three young teen protagonists deaI with a borderline eating disorder, an alcoholic parent, a fickle cute boy, and the tribulations of fitting in with the popular crowd. There are crushes, dates, and kisses, but no sex. The book name-drops characters from the author's Traveling Pants books and may appeal most to fans of the series.

User Reviews

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Teen, 16 years old Written byslobBOB325 November 16, 2019


Once again, Ann Brashares has written a breathtaking story that will blow readers away and have them begging for more of Ama, Jo, and Polly.

The main focus of... Continue reading
Kid, 11 years old November 24, 2015

Great read for tweens!

decent read about friendship for young teens +. I don't think it's appropriate for tweens, unless you're a mature reader like me. A little bit of... Continue reading

What's the story?

First things first: There are no magical pants in Brashares' newest novel, despite 3 WILLOWS' tagline: "The sisterhood grows." Like many girls, three old friends -- Ama, Jo, and Polly -- wanted to emulate the famed Sisterhood, still a neighborhood legend after the girls have moved away to college. "It's the best reason I can give for a lot of terrible-fitting jeans in our middle school," Ama notes. Instead, the motif that ties these friends together is their planting of three willow trees in elementary school. Now, during their last summer before high school, the girls must figure out if they will grow together or grow apart as they each face their own challenges. Jo gets a job -- and a new boyfriend -- while her parents go through a divorce; outdoors-hating Ama must hike and rock climb when she ends up at a summer wilderness camp; and sweet Polly decides to become a model, despite her short stature and buck teeth. Are their bonds strong enough for high school -- or is their friendship something that belongs in the past?

Is it any good?

Brashares' strength is creating believable characters imbued with true-to-life faults. The 3 WILLOWS teens are not all beautiful, rich, and confident, and teens will find them honest and relatable. The author's insights into relationships with friends and family will also garner a nod of agreement from many teens. When Polly's mom tries to make her feel better for being "weird," Polly confesses that she doesn't want to be "interesting." "Maybe it was okay when you were grown up and in control of it, but being interesting in high school was no fun at all." Jo feigns indifference to her father's announcement about her parents' divorce, only to get angry at her father's relief. "Maybe she was a jerk to act like she didn't care, but he was a jerk to buy it."

The book starts a little slow, and some of the lessons are predictable. However, teens who enjoy books about friendship will find these new "sisters" worth knowing.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about Polly's choice to start dieting and her obsession with models. Imagining herself as a model pictured in magazines distributed all over the world, she believes "you could see so much more of the world when you were flat than when you were full ... I'd like to be two-dimensional, she thought. That was what models got to be." What do teens think about the idea of being reduced to a two-dimensional picture? How does Polly's attitude change over the course of the book? Parents may want to check out Common Sense Media's tips for talking to girls about body image.

  • Fans of the Sisterhood may want to talk about the similarities and differences here. Were you drawn to this book because it was written by the same author? Do you think kids would read it even if it was written by someone else? Do you think it's fair that published authors have an easier time selling books than first-time writers?

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