Carmen tries to write to Albert, but every time she tries to start a letter, she slips in something mean. She mails him all her money, without a letter.

Lena lies in her bedroom, worrying about Bridget, whom she knows sometimes suffers from her free spirit. She goes downstairs and asks Grandma why Kostos lives with his grandparents. Grandma explains that Kostos once lived in New York City and had a little brother. One day, Kostos’s family went for a drive and got into a car accident. Kostos was the only one to survive, and he was sent to Greece to live with his grandparents. Grandma is so saddened by the story that Lena finally tells her the truth: that Kostos didn’t attack her. Lena cries because Kostos and Bridget, whose lives have been touched by sadness, are still willing to fall in love, while she herself isn’t.

Analysis

After Bridget has a physical encounter with Eric, she faces a situation that she can’t conquer with energy, high spirits, or her characteristic abandon. Until this point, Bridget has found the pursuit of Eric exciting. It’s been a challenge, and she has faced two major obstacles: the rule forbidding coach/camper romances and the difference in their ages. Sneaking to the bar and to his cabin made her seem courageous, fun, and a little reckless to her friends, and she liked showing off for them. Bridget has also found Eric’s attention exciting, since it’s clear that he thinks she’s attractive. All of these things made pursuing Eric fun. What Bridget is not prepared for is actually succeeding in her pursuit. When her interactions with Eric were part of the chase, they seemed harmless, challenging, and exciting. Bridget knew just what to do: keep coming up with ways to see Eric and keep flirting with him to increase his interest. But when their interaction becomes serious, when Eric gives in to his feelings instead of resisting them, Bridget doesn’t know how to handle the consequences. She has suddenly done something brand-new, something serious, something she can’t just laugh off or brag about. Something big has happened to her, and Bridget does not yet have the emotional skills to make sense of it. Brashares does not describe the encounter for the reader, nor does Bridget describe what really happened between her and Eric to her friends.

Lena sees her extreme beauty as an obstacle to finding true love or romantic happiness. Throughout her life, she’s gotten lots of attention for being beautiful, but this attention always fades, because Lena is very shy. Unsure about how to connect with people and distrustful that boys like her only for her looks, Lena has become introverted and withdrawn. She’s most comfortable and happy when she is alone, painting or walking. What Lena wants most of all is to blend in or even be somewhat invisible, and her beauty prevents her from doing that. However, being in Greece shows her that she may be missing out on happiness. Effie is warm, open, and charming, which makes her instantly likable to their grandparents and irresistible to boys, who want to have her as a girlfriend rather than just admire what she looks like. Lena envies Effie, even though Lena is the one always being praised for being gorgeous. Kostos, who has seen great sadness in his life, doesn’t hesitate to follow his heart, a quality that Lena is beginning to admire. Beautiful Lena is, at heart, a lonely girl, and she knows she needs to transcend her beauty and allow others to see what’s inside. She blames others for only seeing her from the outside, but she’s actually responsible for holding people at arm’s length.

Both Lena and Kostos enjoy skinny-dipping in the secluded pond, which suggests that both of them feel truly free only when they are alone. Lena, self-conscious about her beauty, usually wears baggy, unattractive clothes to avoid calling attention to her body. At the pond, however, she feels so alone and so free that she takes off all her clothes, feeling indescribably happy as she swims. Her reverie is disturbed, of course, by Kostos, who winds up seeing her naked. For his part, Kostos is not self-conscious about his appearance, but he has grown up under the watchful eye of people like Lena’s grandmother, who are convinced that he’s perfect. He also holds the weighty grief of losing his entire family. At the pond, he too finds the freedom to become completely himself, alone and unwatched. Just as Kostos interrupted Lena’s swim, Lena interrupts Kostos’s, and she sees him naked as well. Both Kostos and Lena have seen each other at their most vulnerable moment, but this moment is also when they are most fully themselves. Though Lena thinks Kostos doesn’t understand or know her, the fact that they have seen each other this way suggests that they are more aligned than Lena suspects.

PLUS

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