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Saturday, April 11, 2020

YA Grief Novel Odd, Depressing

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

Ever since the death of his wife, Rafe Torres has been disintegrating.  Inconsolable, he drinks too much, gambles too much, owes too much and parents too little.  His four daughters have had it with picking up the pieces after their dad's many mess-ups.  Desperate for escape, they try running away, only to be caught by a despondent Rafe who promises to do better.  Not long after the sisters' botched escape, Ana plunges to her death while sneaking out her bedroom window.  Her death drives Rafe deeper into despair, leaving Iridian, Jessica, and Rosa to fend for themselves. 

A year after Ana dies, the three Torres girls are living a chaotic, feral existence in a house that feels both empty and oppressive with the weight of their grief.  Seventeen-year-old Iridian is biding her time working a part-time job and dating Ana's abusive ex-boyfriend.  Iridian—a 16-year-old dreamer—reads incessantly and pours her heart out in her journal.  An old soul, 13-year-old Rosa roams the city at night, talking to birds and searching for an escaped zoo animal.  Their separate orbits collide when each of them notices strange things happening inside their home.  They hear Ana's laughter whispering through the halls, see her handwriting appearing on the walls, and smell a familiar scent lingering in the air.  Could it be Ana's ghost trying to convey a message to her sisters?  What is it she's trying to tell them?  As the girls puzzle out the clues together, they finally feel a smidgeon of hope that might just show them the way out of the deep, dark well of their grief.

I'm not sure what to say about Tigers, Not Daughters by Samantha Mabry except that it's a strange, strange novel.  With its odd combination of realistic fiction, magical realism, and horror, it seems a little confused about its own identity.  Although Tigers, Not Daughters is a quick read, the story doesn't offer much in the way of plot.  Made up of vignettes told from each sister's perspective, it never feels very cohesive.  In addition, the vibe of this novel is unrelentingly sad, depressing, angry, and just ... weird.  Its depiction of the overwhelming and sometimes destructive nature of grief is on point, but the rest of the story didn't really come together for me.  I wasn't sorry to see it end.

(Readalikes:  Hm, I can't really think of a comparable title.  You?)


If this were a movie, it would be rated:

for strong language, violence, sexual content, and disturbing subject matter

To the FTC, with love:  I received a finished copy of Tigers, Not Daughters from the generous folks at Algonquin in exchange for an honest review.  Thank you!


  1. I love grief books, but this leans a bit too dark for me. Was there a glimmer of hope at the end for this family?

    1. There's a glimmer, yes, at the very end, but the rest of it was just too heavy, too dark, too depressing, and too weird for me.

  2. This book sounds unlike anything I've ever read. I might have to check it out
    - Emelie's Books

    1. It's definitely different. I don't know how to explain it exactly. If you do read it, come back and let me know what you think. I'm curious if it's just me that thinks this book is super strange :)

  3. Oh my gosh, I'm so glad you reviewed this. I didn't know this was out, and I loved Mabry's "All the Wind in the World," which was also depressing and bleak but yet so very lovely in places (it's one of those books that still lingers in my mind, years later).

    1. Yep, it's been out for a few weeks. I haven't read anything else by Mabry - it sounds like maybe this is just her style, which is fine, but it doesn't work very well for me.

  4. This just sounds like too much. Especially now. and magical realism just doesn't do it for me. Bummer.

    1. Agreed. It's too heavy overall. I'm okay with magical realism when done well and it's pretty light in this book. I actually didn't mind that part of the story.

  5. Not sure what to think of this one from your description. It seems like a strange message to be sending to grieving YAs if that's its target audience. It's plot seems a little off-center for that audience - but maybe I'm not getting it?

    1. I don't get it either. I've read tons of YA grief novels that got their points across in a clear, realistic, and ultimately hopeful manner. This one is just ... weird. Maybe I'm the only one, but I just did not GET this one!

  6. This does seem like a strange one. I wonder what the author intended.

  7. I have a copy of this one, but keep putting it off. I don't know if I'm in the mood for super dark. Especially with the world the way it is right now.

    Lindsi @ Do You Dog-ear? 😷💬

  8. I don't mind odd books but it sounds like this one has a few issues. Great review!


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