Ahh, Judy Blume. She, of the permanent place in the hearts of the book banning types everywhere. Tiger Eyes is no exception. It is a regular on the ALA Banned and Challenged List. Once again, I defy that list and hungrily devour the books that ignorant fools try to take away from us.
Tiger Eyes begins with Davey Wexler attending her father's funeral. He owned a 7-11 store in Atlantic City and was killed in a hold up. Davey and her family live in an apartment over the store, making it doubly hard for the family to feel safe, or to deal with their loss. This glimpse into the horrible life of people in mourning is real and moving. Davey, her mother and her little brother Jason are sad and lost and terrified because of the violent way that Adam Wexler died.
Mrs. Wexler is barely functioning. Davey can't eat and when she starts high school she begins having panic attacks, hyperventilating and passing out for a few days straight. At the offer of Mr. Wexler's sister and her husband, Davey, her mom and Jason leave Atlantic City to stay for a while in New Mexico. Aunt Bitsy and Uncle Walter live in Los Alamos, a town where pretty much everyone works on defense projects.
Gwen Wexler, Davey's mom, is a basket case. With Bitsy and Walter, who've always wanted kids and never had a family of their own, stepping up and willing to take over, Gwen lets herself fall apart. She retreats to her room and just lets her in-laws raise her kids. Bitsy and Walter, in their own selfish way, as far as I'm concerned, just let her. I thought that was pretty creepy. How could someone just let her cut herself off from life and emotionally abandon grieving children.
I am way too empathetic to read books like this. I know this is supposed to be the story of a really good kid who's had a really crappy hand dealt to her. Davey's behavior is normal and appropriate for her circumstances. She goes to a new environment and sees the narrow mindedness of people, sees the prejudice and peer pressure, avoids the pitfalls of her friends, even helps them and learns to cope with her grief and care for others. This is all pretty lofty and well written.
Here's where I get weirded out for Davey and her brother:
- The mother takes her to bed and leaves her kids to deal with the loss of their father by being essentially absent herself.
- Gwen Wexler knows, or must know, what happened the night her husband died. She and Jason, the little brother were out shopping. Davey was in the backyard with her boyfriend when she heard what sounded like firecrackers. She rant into the story, her boyfriend called for help and Adam Wexler bled to death, after being shot multiple times, in his daughter's arms. Holy crap! Shouldn't someone have talked to a 15 year old girl about what she went through? Her mother, even before she took to her bed, refused to talk about his. The kid has a blood soaked outfit in a bag and sleeps with a knife under her pillow.
- The aunt and uncle freaked me out. Not only did they want to take over as parents, they even bad mouth poor, murdered Adam Wexler to his widow and children. If they always wanted kids they should have looked into adoption, rather than taking advantage of Adam's murder to score themselves some free kids. They were seriously creepy.
- The people living in this little enclave were all pretty strange. They have an antagonistic relationship with the people in the town. There's a lot of fear and anger being bandied about.
The book was interesting. I genuinely like Davey. I think everyone around her took what they needed and sort of set her adrift and she still made it through in pretty good shape. Though, no one who should have been helping her can take any credit. It was all her.
I'm sure there are way too many kids who can relate to Davey and her situation. Once again, I think, Blume manages to show kids how to navigate through rough seas and on rocky shores and come out the other side complete and if not healed, on the right path.
As I type this, Teen Lit Rocks has published, this very day, a post on Tiger Eyes and the upcoming movie based upon it. They even have trailers. Stop over and check it out.