“Is it possible it’s not the worst thing in the world?” she asked, looking down. “I mean, compared to the really bad things?”
Tibby poses these questions to Carmen at the end of chapter 16, after Carmen has fled from South Carolina and tells Tibby how much she hates her father’s new family and that he’s getting married. Carmen has spent the past few weeks fighting the bad turn her summer has taken. She is angry at her father for not telling her he’s changed his life and for being left out of the new family picture, and she has expressed these feelings by throwing a rock through Lydia’s kitchen window. Carmen tells Tibby how much she hates the new family, assuming Tibby will take her side and condemn the family as she has. However, Tibby has gained a new perspective this summer, and a new propensity toward compassion. Whereas she once judged people without thinking twice about it, she is now unable to be irrationally hateful and angry for Carmen’s sake. Though she loves Carmen, she can’t see Carmen’s problems in the dramatic light in which Carmen presents them. Instead, Tibby sees a healthy girl with her whole life ahead of her acting irrationally. Tibby’s friendship with Bailey, who is going to die very soon, has shown her that some things just aren’t important enough to get upset over. She’s learned that there are bigger problems, real problems, including loneliness, sickness, and death.