Review of Tigers, Not Daughters

Tigers, Not Daughters
by Samantha Mabry
High School    Algonquin    280 pp.    g
3/20    978-1-61620-896-7    $17.95

The Torres family, always considered misfits in their San Antonio community, suffered tragedy a year ago when eldest sister Ana fell to her death from her bedroom window. That Ana was sneaking out to see a boy unworthy of her affection, and that her sister Jessica started dating him soon after Ana’s death, are gossip-worthy enough; add to that middle sister Iridian’s angry self-isolation and youngest sister Rosa’s seeming ability to communicate with animals, and the siblings’ feeling of alienation grows. When Ana’s ghost appears, it’s unclear whether she means their family well or ill. Mabry’s moody writing paints a picture of a grief-stricken family mired in its own suffering and seemingly doomed to stay there. The descriptions are sensory (“She didn’t yet know the pure joy that came along with smelling the pages of books, how a new book smelled like chlorine or how a used book sometimes smelled like cigarettes or tangy breath”), visceral, and weird (“Jessica pulled a clump of her older sister’s hair from the [shower] trap…held the wet strands between her fingers for a few moments before putting the hair in her mouth and swallowing it”). The story’s climax is chaotic and cathartic — and it ultimately presents a path forward for the sisters.

From the May/June 2020 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

Elissa Gershowitz

Elissa Gershowitz is executive editor of The Horn Book, Inc. She holds an MA from the Center for the Study of Children's Literature at Simmons University and a BA from Oberlin College.

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