- First published in 2019 by Delacorte Press
- Format: Paperback – Published in 2019 by Rock the Boat
- Reading Time: 2 poignant days
- Heading into another New Year’s Resolutions Reading Challenge book. This one is another one I picked up on a whim after vaguely remembering hearing good things about it. The prompt was to read a book that focusses on mental health and this book focusses on the emotional hellscape Tiger has to face when, without any warning and after an argument that will haunt her long after the fact, her mother dies. Even though her mother’s overbearing nature was really getting on her nerves, Tiger has no one left to take care of her so, she is thrown into the dark and confusing world of foster care and left to find her own way to face her debilitating grief and the world in general with no one shielding her.
- Excellent idea to put some chapters in second person when the book has to skip over some things that, though important, would have slowed the story down e.g. picking up her mother’s ashes and receiving death certificates. It gives the chapters a lot more punch too, like Tiger is disconnecting from herself because the events are just too painful.
- A heart-breaking and unflattering portrait of the foster care system is included in this book. It doesn’t portray saints with enough room in their homes and hearts for every lost child or abusers who always get away with it but only shows people who are doing in their best with what they have in an overloaded system. That system can be both overly logical and defy logic at the same time and definitely doesn’t have the time or resources to find the right place or support for everyone. It’s hardly surprising that Tiger doesn’t get the support she needs right away and has to ‘make friends with the dark’ the hard way.
- Rather surprised that Tiger’s mum wasn’t portrayed as abusive. Overbearing and overprotective in a way that was going to drive a wedge between her and her daughter sooner or later but there is a definite warmness to her that tells you that she means well. She was just misguided and unwilling to face the prospect of life without her daughter. I can imagine most mothers might relate to that.
- Tiger herself is a very sympathetic character. It’s probably because I’m a massive introvert myself but I found myself relating to her a lot. It would have been so easy to make her look whiny, overly emotional and passive but the book does an excellent job of showing just how much she has lost and I don’t just mean her mother. It’s quite understandable why she would be passive given how she’s been brought up and what she’s been through. When she does take action, it feels satisfying even when we know that’s probably not the best action to do. It’s easy for the readers to root for her, even as the black hole starts to pull her in and she starts making big mistakes.
- Well, I think my favourite character, aside from Tiger, would have to be Shayna. There were several moments when that had me cheering with delight. She definitely didn’t make a good first impression but she had several brilliant moments. As did Tiger’s friend, Cake, and fellow foster care child, Thaddeus.
- Rather good at subverting my expectations when it came to characters. Hardly any of the characters were as good or as bad as their first impressions showed them to be. Even the closest thing to a stereotypical evil foster mother got a little redeeming light introduced into her character. My advice is to never take any of the characters at face value. Something will pop up later and surprise you.
- Excellent lyrical style full of beautiful and visceral imagery for grief. The most recurring image is one of a girl-bug being trapped in a jar and reacting to the various things happening around Tiger. There are loads of really graphic imagery too – the most memorable being a character describing herself as feeling like she had been skinned, had her skin baked and then put back on her. It’s part of what makes this book some compulsively readable and how I didn’t find it hard to at all to finish in two days.
- Nice inclusions of references to classic literature and to another emotionally-devastating book which, though not mentioned by name, everyone will definitely recognise. There are a couple of other pop culture references but they never feel intrusive or confusing to anyone living outside America.
- Can kind of see this becoming a set text in English Literature. There’s certainly enough great imagery for that, especially around the Memorial Dance dress. I hope it does, too.
- Handles grief and all the obstacles in the way of healing very well. Even if Tiger didn’t have foster care to deal with, she wouldn’t have had an easy time of it. It’s clear how little the funeral business does to give the mourners closure and grief support groups, even though the organisers mean well, don’t really do that much good if they don’t have the resources to support them. It’s good to see a book that doesn’t go down the ‘just-get-therapy’ route or looks for a quick fix or a fix that will work every time.
- I normally wouldn’t like a book that mostly takes place inside a character’s own head and that doesn’t have all that much in the way of story. While there are a few memorable (and one rather satisfying) dramatic scenes, this is definitely a more introspective book but don’t let that put you off if that’s not your thing. You should definitely give it a go anyway and you might find yourself pleasantly surprised.
- Never fell into the trap of trying to make out that having all the answers to the overhanging questions would be the last piece in the puzzle to Tiger getting over her mother’s death. The answers are important pieces in the puzzle, no doubt, but not the final pieces. The answers make the book itself feel complete, certainly, but it’s nothing compared to the emotional journey Tiger went through to get them.
- Going for a happy but not unrealistic ending. It feels more like a beginning to the rest of Tiger’s life rather than the end of her story. The little fourth wall break at the end was perfectly placed too. This is definitely one of my best impulse buys and it might be one of my favourites in the New Year’s Resolution Reading Challenge so far.
Goodreads Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
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