ARC given to me by Random House in exchange for an honest review.
This review is going up the day of release (April 9, 2019), so Happy Birthday How to Make Friends with the Dark!
Content/Trigger Warning: Death/loss of a loved one, grief, eating disorders, talk of suicide, domestic violence, parental abuse, alcoholism, the reality of the foster care system, abortion, depression, PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder), under age drinking, severe bullying/cyber bullying, and anxiety/panic attacks, self-harm.
“It’s dark in your house, dark in your room, and dark in your heart.”
How to Make Friends with the Dark follows sixteen-year-old Tiger Tolliver who has just had her world flipped upside down. Her and her mom have always been a team, but suddenly Tiger starts to wonder if their well-oiled machine is really so well-oiled after all. Because, come to think of it, her mom needs to control everything. The songs on the radio. The truth about the dad she’s never met. Whether or not she goes to school dances. She can never just be on her own. This doesn’t even begin to tackle the six million other things she has going on in her life. Lupe Hidalgo for instance, who’s life mission seems to make hers a living hell. Band practice with Broken Cradle. The fact that her crush from bio is moving to Deutschland for the whole summer. But then the unimaginable happens. And Tiger soon realizes she doesn’t want to be on her own. Not at all. So begin her mission to track down the dad she never knew about. To find herself again. Find forgiveness. And a whole mess of other things along the way.
Before I start this review, I want to really empathize how hard this book is to read and how self-care needs to be practiced while reading this book. There are so many topics in this book that you have to be in the right mindset to read them. So please take care of yourself while reading this book, take a break, allow yourself to process, and remember I love you!
It’s been a while since I read a book that absorbed me and made me crack into a million pieces. Kathleen Glasgow has written such a powerful master piece that touches on so many topics. This has probably been one of the hardest books I have ever read, but one of the most well-written way of touching on the reality of so many topics. While my life has never gotten to the point of Tiger’s, I have related to this book in more way than one. While reading this book, I think this is the first book that has ever made me pause and think of what would have happened if my life had gone down the other path. Going into this book I thought I knew what I was getting myself into, but the roller-coaster ride this book takes you on is a rocky one and I wasn’t prepared for this ride. Glasgow does a service to her readers by not holding anything back, instead choosing to take us deep into Tiger’s mind as she begins to try and figure out how to live a life she never expected.
One particular key piece of this story that was super relatable. After the death of her mother, Tiger decides to exclusively wear the dress her mom had bought her for an upcoming school dance. She refuses to wear anything else until eventually the dress becomes smelly and begins to fall apart. Other ways she finds to cope is through self-harm and unhealthy eating habits. This are all things I experienced at a younger age than Tiger was after losing so many friends to either suicide or car accidents.
“I will never leave you. I will always be right here.”
All the characters in this book were so vivid and relatable. None of them were perfect by any definition, but you could tell how each character was trying so hard to handle the cards they have been dealt. I really found myself drawn to Thaddeus especially when he would interact with one another. I think Tiger and Thaddeus really balanced each other out. Not to mention, he tried his best to be there for her when everything felt like it was spiraling out of control. Near the end in particular they had a really great scene together and it so wonderful to see how far their friendship had blossomed. Tiger’s best friend, Cake also deserves some appreciation because the amount of unconditional love she has for Tiger could stand against any storm. She stands by Tiger through everything. So much that she’s even been putting off her own future to be by her best friend’s side to make sure she’s okay. If that isn’t true love then I don’t know what is. Their friendship is so incredible and you can find a deep appreciation for Cake’s presence.
Glasgow also includes representation for the LGBTQIAP+ community. While it’s never actually declared what their sexual orientation is we do get the implications of what these two side characters prefer. Our first side character is Lupe Hidalgo who comes to grief counseling late because she was with her girlfriend. Later on in the story, Lupe goes into a little more details about her relationship with her girlfriend. Our second side character is Mae-Lynn who spends time with Tiger the most after their grief group. Mae-Lynn is the only one from the grief group that probably spends the most time with Tiger. Later on we do learn that Mae-Lynn feels close to Tiger and feels like she found someone who understands, but first we end up with a beautiful moment. During the school dance, Mae-Lynn and Tiger are sitting in the car and Mae-Lynn confesses to Tiger that she likes both boys and girls. We end up with Tiger responding to Mae-Lynn by just saying “love who you want to love.” This is such an impact as Mae-Lynn continues into how she thinks her dad would have handled her coming out to him. Both of these characters each deliver key elements into this story, but this was just a wonderful detail Glasgow added to these characters to make us love them even more.
“My advice to you is to split. Run. Get the fuck out. You don’t know what’s out there, what kind of people they might place you with.”
The other thing I really loved about this book was the accurate representation of the reality of the foster care system. This in the first book I have read that accurate states what the foster care system is actually like. It’s very rare to find a book that openly talks about how children are handled once in the foster system. I have never personally been in foster care, but I had a couple of friends who were in the foster system. The stories that that have told me of what they experienced and what later on ended up happening to them still breaks my heart. This is definitely a rare gem that shines a little more light on the reality and while it’s heart-breaking, Glasgow executed it excellently.
Also, the fact that we more family dynamics with this book is perfection. It’s not very often we get books that have single parent homes or even show the sibling family dynamic. This element made me love this book even more. Glasgow shows the vividness and the imperfection with June and Shayna While they’re both different people, they both put forward a hundred percent to do right by Tiger. As someone who comes from a single parent home, this was such an impact to read two different family dynamics that I could relate to. This is going to be an element that touches so many readers who can relate to Tiger who has that different family dynamic.
My only real issue with this story was the pacing, but it wasn’t to really hold it against the book. This is a book that’s on the longer end and I feel like it didn’t entirely need to be, but I can understand why the author set it for that pace. I want to say the first 50-60% of the book it’s very slow and is building things up for the last 40% of the book. Once you get past that part, you will fly through it is so quickly. I didn’t realize how quickly it was going until I was on the last three chapters. You will get sucked into the story even deeper than what you were.
Overall, I found myself emotionally submerged into this story. How to Make Friends with the Dark really is a can’t miss read. Tiger’s story demands to be told and it deserves to be known. What she goes through is a reality that many teens face, and I really believe that this book has the ability to help a lot of people process the grief they are experiencing and figure out where to go from here. This is a book that is going to touch every person who picks this book up and reads it.
“They were a good-looking, good-smelling, well-oiled machine.”
The quotes above were taken from an ARC and are subject to change upon publication.