Tigers, Not Scaredy-cats

Tigers, Not DaughtersTigers, Not Daughters by Samantha Mabry

My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars

Thank you, Algonquin Young Readers, for giving me an ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review.

I write about the things of which I’m afraid—it’s my way of fighting my fears. — Samantha Mabry

Are you fond of ghost stories? If you’re looking for something mildly creepy to read during this very long quarantine, you’re in the right place. I finished this book in three days, even though my Nintendo Switch kept on distracting me. Haha. But from the get-go, you should know that novels with magical realism are hardly horrific because they make the paranormal seem so…normal.

Tigers, Not Daughters follows three teenage girls: Jessica, Iridian, and Rosa. Their big sister, Ana, died a year ago, and they still haven’t moved on. Ana was the light in the Torres household, the girls’ only hope of escaping their not-so-happy life with their pathetic father in San Antonio. So now that she’s gone, Jessica, Iridian, and Rosa are stuck in the status quo. One day, weird things start happening in their home, and the signs all point to Ana. Has she really come back to haunt them?

Every Torres girl had a distinguishable trait. Jessica was a tough girl in an abusive relationship, Iridian was a budding author who hated emotions, and Rosa was a dreamer who loved animals. I enjoyed all of their perspectives but felt more invested in Iridian’s character development. One of her struggles was that she couldn’t accurately describe things that she hadn’t experienced. And since she disliked going outside (thanks to a traumatic event at school), her experience of the world was limited. As a fellow writer and homebody, I could relate to Iridian’s dilemma. If you want to be a better writer, you really have to widen your horizons.

Jessica was both frustrating and interesting. She had a flaring temper and was obsessed with becoming like Anna. Her obsession led her to date John, her dead sister’s boyfriend. Like…what the heck, girl? And John turned out to be a despicable boyfriend who always wanted to get into Jessica’s pants. Their interactions were mostly terrible, so I was glad every time Peter (Jessica’s kind neighbor/workmate entered the scene. I liked that he returned Jessica’s bitterness with kindness. He made me very excited about Jessica’s redemption.

Rosa, the youngest, had the most whimsical (and mature) point of view. People considered her the most innocent Torres girl, but she was actually capable of protecting her big sisters from bad men, including their dad. In many ways, Rosa deserved the title of the eldest. Without her, the book probably wouldn’t have a satisfying ending.

Ultimately, Tigers, Not Daughters gave me a glimpse of what it’s like to have many sisters. I’m very familiar with the strength of brotherhood, but the beauty of sisterhood is on a different level. This not-so-scary ghost story reminded me that sisters could connect in a uniquely meaningful way. If you have sisters, I hope that they also bring out the best in you.