I Love... Tiger Eyes by Judy Blume
Everyone has a first love.
Book love, that is.
You know what I mean. It's that book that you had to buy a second copy of because you wore out your original. The one with passages you can still recite by heart. The one that makes you squeal like a crazy person when you find someone else who loves it just as much as you do. It's the one that shatters your soul when you see anything but rave reviews for it on Goodreads.
For me, that first book love was Judy Blume's Tiger Eyes.
Tiger Eyes is the single most influential book of my life. I first picked up a raged copy for--and I remember this as clearly as if it were yesterday--50 cents at Powell's Books at the old Beaverton location. It was the summer between by freshman and sophomore years of high school.
I'd read most of the typical Judy Blume books a few years previously, but not this one, which I managed to overlook at my public library. (It's possible that my conservative hometown's library didn't even have this oft-banned book, or that it was shelved in the adult fiction so sixth-grade Sarah didn't have a chance to discover it along with Are You There, God? It's Me, Margaret.)
Tiger Eyes set the stage for my lifelong love affair with quiet, character-driven contemporary fiction.
Not a lot really happens in the book. It's not full of drama or overly-heightened plot-lines. It's about a Davey, a teen girl whose normal, happy life is shattered following the tragic death of her father. Her mother, sticken with grief, moves the family to Los Alamos, New Mexico, where she loses herself among the red canyons and pine trees.
Each of us must confront our own fears, must come face to face with them. How we handle our fears will determine where we go with the rest of our lives. To experience adventure or to be limited by the fear of it.
In her wanderings, she meets Wolf, and her growing connection to him helps Davey begin to emerge from her severe trauma and move forward with her life. Tiger Eyes isn't a romance, it's something bigger. It's a book about two people who find each other at just the right time and that's all it needs to be.
The other relationships are equally complex: Davey and her mother; Davey and her aunt; her aunt and uncle's marriage; Davey's connection to the people she meets as a candy striper at the local hospital. Each of these is layered and subtle and real. In my reading life, Tiger Eyes is the standard by which I compare all realistic or contemporary novels.
I also can thank Judy Blume and Tiger Eyes for subconsciously resulting in my moving to New Mexico in my twenties.
Judy Blume lived in Los Alamos in the 1970s and makes beautiful northern New Mexico come alive in this novel. She makes you feel like you're right next to Davey as she explores the cliffs and canyons of this unique place. When I was a teenager, I thought it would be the coolest thing in life to go to the (don't laugh) Armand Hammer United World College in Montezuma, New Mexico (I was also obsessed with boarding schools, so this was the perfect synergy of my obsessions). That didn't happen, but in 2003, I did move to Santa Fe, and spent four years working and living in the most beautiful and bizarre place on the planet.
Judy Blume and her son made Tiger Eyes into a film a couple of years ago and I've never anticipated a movie more.
Sadly, it's still making the festival rounds and hasn't played anywhere near me and is not yet released on DVD or streaming. I was honestly distraught when it was shown at my favorite venue in Santa Fe last year and I knew that there was no way my freelancer budget would allow me head to New Mexico to see it.
I followed the casting news with bated breath, and was, frankly, pretty nervous when Will Holland was cast as my beloved Davey, since all I knew about her was that she was associated in some way with Gossip Girl. But when Tatanka Means landed the role of Wolf and I learned that the movie was being filmed in the same locales as the book takes place, I was thrilled. And once the trailer was released and the movie poster nailed the tone of the book, any nervousness about the Tiger Eyes film was replaced by giddy excitement.
I would move hell or high water to see it if Tiger Eyes played within a five hour drive of my--and I'm in no way exaggerating.
I may or may not have a Google Alert set up so I will be the first to know of screenings. Sadly, living in something of an outpost here in the Pacific Northwest means that I'm starting to feel hopeless that I'll ever get to see Teenage Sarah's favorite book come to life on the big screen. My fingers are still crossed that it'll happen, though.
Judy Blume tweeted me once and after I recovered from the shock of it all, I felt compelled to fan girl about how much Tiger Eyes meant to me when I was the same age as Davey, but because I'm
a dumbass cool and all, I just responded to the conversation in a normalish way. But, seriously, I will be eternally appreciative of Judy Blume for writing a book that so captured my teenage heart.
If you've never read it, and quiet, character-driven novels make your heart sing, Tiger Eyes really holds up, despite being over 30 years old. It's timeless in its exploration of grief, identity and the simultaneously uplifting and heartbreaking process of growing up and moving forward.
...some changes happen deep down inside of you. And the truth is, only you know about them. Maybe that's the way it's supposed to be.