in recent years

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back to school with judy blume: tiger eyes

Dear Judy,

I didn’t expect to like Tiger Eyes. I’m not sure why, honestly, and after the disappointment of Blubber earlier this week I was really, really dreading sitting down with it. But, like the dedicated person I am trying very hard to be, I sucked it up and I sat down with it and I devoured it. When I was reading Blubber, I had to bargain with myself to read it. I read five chapters and then got to watch fifteen minutes of an episode of Doctor Who. I set myself up for a similar bargain with Tiger Eyes, but it left the good Doctor utterly forsaken.

Tiger Eyes is really beautiful and painful and honest. It’s a lot more detached and literary than the last seven of yours I’ve read and I worried that it would start to feel like it was trying to hard, but it never did. I really loved Davey. I loved watching her struggle through her grief, but also her pushing back against the rigidity of her newfound household. The tension between a family that loves her and wants to keep her safe, to the point of overbearing protectiveness, and the overwhelming energy in Davey that desperately wants to run free.

I didn’t love Wolf or her interactions with him, but I loved her time with Mr. Ortiz and how gently she learns her lessons there, not only with grief but with the pressure of living up to expectations and wanting to please people who want the best for you, even if their idea of best is misguided.

I loved the little things in the story, the details of the landscape and the town, the meals and the people. I loved Davey asking to see the bathtub in Jane’s house and them sitting in the stranger’s Subaru in the parking lot of the movie theater. I really appreciated Davey’s acknowledgement of the racial tension in Los Alamos and Santa Fe and particularly her struggling with it because Atlantic City was so different. It’s not up to 2012 code of Not Being Racist, but it’s trying and I imagine it was up to 1981’s standards.

I don’t have a lot to say, Judy, I’m sorry. It’s easier to rant about something or rehash the nostalgia of something you know than it is to talk about things you just plain liked. I’m glad I got to spend the time with Davey and feel her pain and see her emerge from the dark cocoon of it. I’m glad I got to see her verbally, loudly, actively reject the values being laid on her by Bitsy and Walter. I’m glad I got to see her struggle with her mother and her mother’s pain. I’m really glad I got to see her seek help from Miriam and find the voice to talk about her loss. What a wonderful model that is for young readers who are often scared to ask for help when they most need it.

Thanks, Judy. This was an extraordinary way to finish this project.

– Ash

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