How to Make Friends with the Dark

img_20190626_192800img_20190626_192908The protagonist of this book, Grace (aka Tiger), is a high school sophomore living in a small Arizona desert town. She does not know who her father is/was, and her mother is secretive about most other parts of her past life.  But her mom loves her fiercely and, in fact, is seriously overprotective.  Tiger loves her mom and a lot of the attention, and she seems fundamentally well-adjusted, but she is not allowed to do many things that her peers do. In addition, because she and her mom are poor, she dresses peculiarly in thrift-shop clothes and goes hungry much of the time.  She has one very good female friend, Cake, as well as a long-time male friend named Kai, for whom she has suddenly developed romantic feelings which seem to be reciprocated.

As Tiger tries to stretch her paws HAHAHA she has a predictable fight with her restrictive mom and says some harsh words.  Unfortunately, these are the last words from her that her mother hears, because she dies suddenly from a brain aneurysm. Tiger has no known living relatives, and although Cake’s parents are willing to take her, Arizona social service laws intervene and Tiger is thrown into the foster care system.  As it turns out, however, there is a half-sister Tiger didn’t know about.  The sister is only 20 and has her own reasons for a major life-change, so she agrees to take on guardianship of Tiger, and she travels from Hawaii to Arizona for that purpose.  Tiger also learns the identity of her father, who is still living but in prison, and some living grandparents.

This is an interesting story about grief, family secrets, bullying, body image, living in poverty, social services, domestic abuse, teenage suicide, alcoholism and drunk driving, single parenting, guilt, friendship, romance, betrayal, talent and creativity, and the practical arrangements of settling affairs after a family member’s death.

In this book two characters are gay (actually one is bisexual).  The author takes an affirming stand toward their orientations and relationships.  There are descriptions of sexual situations.  As you can see from the picture of the colored tabs, there is a great deal of coarse language, largely variations of the F-word but also some religious profanity.  These components might remove an otherwise interesting and helpful book from placement on school library shelves or in gift bags for young adults.

Categories: Body Acceptance, Bullying, Controversial YA Topics, Crime, Death and Grieving, Diversity, Dysfunctional Relationships, Grief, LGBTQIA, Navigating through High School, Offensive Language in YA Literature, Parent Conflict, Peer Relationships, Social Media

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