CW’s: Death/Grief, Alcohol Abuse, Mentions of past suicide/suicidal thoughts + self-harm, Abusive Relationship (physical, emotional + possible sexual assault), Mentions of past abuse/parental neglect
Representation 🌷 Grief
Here is what happens when your mother dies.
It’s the brightest day of summer and it’s dark outside. It’s dark in your house, dark in your room, and dark in your heart. You feel like the darkness is going to split you apart.
That’s how it feels for Tiger. It’s always been Tiger and her mother against the world. Then, on a day like any other, Tiger’s mother dies. And now it’s Tiger, alone.
Here is how you learn to make friends with the dark.
Meet: Tiger Tolliver, the girl whose world just shattered 🌷 It was always just Tiger and her mother against the world, so when she’s suddenly alone and forced to go into foster care, as she’s a minor with no other relatives, things seem really dark. Seeing Tiger in a state of shock and apathy honestly broke my heart. She’s barely able to eat anything and refuses to wear the dress that her mother bought her right before she dies. The author explores the foster system and how there’s a spectrum of foster parents: some are very strict and make the homes a sad place to be, others are amazing and really caring for their wards. Of course, the authors don’t shy away from speaking about the dark sides of the system, like abusive foster parents and what a toll it can take on a child’s life to be taken from home to home with no real constant. Seeing the fate of the different kids that Tiger encounters gives us an insight into their stories and what they are doing to cope. Tiger’s journey is a messy one, as she’s barely able to cope with everything going on and ends up overwhelmed and out of control for a majority of the book. The book raises the question of how you can even begin to live with such a devastating new normal when you haven’t had the chance to grieve properly. Tiger herself feels very realistic: she’s withdrawn, subjected to bully because she cannot afford what others can and yet also very resilient. She doesn’t have a lot of friends and is trying to do the best she can.
It’s a raw honest portrayal of grief 🌷 I knew going into the book that it would break my heart, as its premise is honestly a horror scenario: losing your mother when you’re young. Unlike most families, Tiger never got to know her father and as her grandparents are dead, she’s suddenly all on her own, which is terrifying as she’s also mourning who she lost. Being thrown in foster care and coping with everything thatÄs going on is tough and it broke my heart how overwhelmed and numb Tiger was due to the sheer number of things happening to her all at once. The book explores the journey of losing someone you love and grieving for everything you have lost. Later on, a grief counsel group is also involved, showing that it’s not an experience you can understand until it has happened to you, which is why this support is so important. The book also explored the devastation of not being able to say goodbye ad have a loved one die after you’ve had a huge fight. This further broke my heart as Tiger’s last words to her mother weren’t kind, she was upset, but the thing is that you expect to be able to make it up later. Only that this time it wasn’t possible, as you never know what might happen. You think you’ll have someone forever until you don’t.
I honestly loved all the characters so much 🌷 Besides Tiger, there were so many more amazing secondary characters that all felt so real and really made me get attached to the story. We have her best and only friend Cookie, who is trying to help her the best she can, even though she doesn’t completely understand this misery that Tiger is experiencing. Yet Cookie is very loyal and always trying to be there for her, as is her family. However, we also see the ugly parts, like her parents being afraid Tiger will hold her friend back. What do you do when you feel like you’re friend is missing out to be with you? Apart from Cookie, we also have Mae-Lynn, a fellow outsider and classmate of Tiger that she gets closer to through the grief group and that ends up becoming a close friend that can understand her situation. I also loved LaLa, she was such an amazing foster mom and doing the best she could to make things as comfortable as possible for her kids. No matter how apathetic Tiger is, she really tries to take care of her. Then there’s her foster son Thaddeus who had a rough childhood in an abusive home but is trying his best to get his life back on track. He’s a great support for Tiger and I liked how he was taking her how she was without getting frustrated. Lastly, there’s Shayna, who Tiger has to learn to live with. She’s really young herself, definitely not feeling like an adult, yet she tries her best to help Tiger through this difficult time. She’s brave and bold, but can also be scared and messy.
IN CONCLUSION ➽ How to Make Friends with the Dark was a raw, honest portrayal of what it means to lose someone you love, who used to be your entire world. Told through the eyes of a girl now facing the world alone, it’s about finding hope when it seems impossible and trying to live with the darkness. It’s a haunting, emotional book that’s an absolute must-read!
Have you read How to Make Friends with the Dark? Any books dealing with grief that you could recommend? 🌷