"You don’t know your ass from your armpit"…or Tiger Eyes

I still can’t find Deenie, but I just read it a few weeks ago, so it must be around here somewhere. I’ve stopped looking and will assume that it will turn up sooner or later. So I decided to read another Judy Blume, Tiger Eyes. Although I definintely read Tiger Eyes when I was younger, I didn’t read it 1,000,000’s of times like most other Judy Blume books. So I had forgotten how completely awesome it is! This book is made of awesome.

Davey Wexler is fifteen years old and lives in Atlantic City, NJ with her mom, dad, and little brother Jason. Davey’s dad owns a 7-11 and one night gets shot and killed during a robbery at the store. The book begins at her dad’s funeral.

Davey goes through a major depression where she refuses to get out of bed, shower or eat. She loses weight and is stinky. At one point she goes 13 days without washing! Her dad’s sister, Bitsy and her husband Walter are staying with the family for a few weeks. Eventually though, they go back home, which is in New Mexico. Walter works at Los Alamos Laboratory. They offer their house to Davey’s mom any time she needs to get away.

Davey begins school, but keeps getting ill. They say she’s hyperventilating and fainting every day, but it sounds like panic attacks. Maybe panic attacks didn’t have a name in 1981. So mom decides to take Walter and Bitsy up on their offer to visit New Mexico to give Davey a change of scenery. The plan is to stay a couple weeks.

The visit begins nice. Davey doesn’t have any more ‘spells’ and she gets to know and like the New Mexico landscape. One day, Davey takes Bitsy’s bike out for a ride and ends up at a canyon. She climbs down it and meets a stranger, who goes by the name Wolf. Wolf lectures her about climbing alone, without water, and without proper footwear. Davey is frightened of him at first, but he helps her out. A few days later, Davey buys some hiking boots.

Two nights before the family is set to return to Atlantic City, mom gets a call from her friend. The 7-11 store, which has been closed since Dad’s murder, has been ransacked and looted. And mom’s ability to hold it together and be strong for her children goes kaput. She has a nervous breakdown, thowing things and crying and screaming. Obviously she can not go back to Atlantic City in her state, so the family decides to stay with Walter and Bitsy a little longer.

Meanwhile Davey continues to go to the canyon and meet Wolf, who never tells Davey his real name. She tells him that her name is Tiger. Wolf tells her stories about the canyon and the Anasazi who lived there once and the history of the area.

So Davey enrolls in school in New Mexico. She meets a friend Jane, whose father also works at the lab with Walter. Davey notices that unlike her school in A.C., this school is white, white, WHITE!. There are a few hispanic kids, but everyone lets her know that their fathers aren’t scientists, but do maintenance at the Lab. This is odd for Davey, whose best friend at home is black. Davey learns that Walter’s job at the lab is creating new and better weapons of war. This doesn’t sit well with Davey, who thought Walter was a kind, but serious soul. He tries to justify it to her, about needing weapons of war to keep the peace, but honestly what is he thinking? She’s only 15 and her father just died violently! Also, Walter carries a gun with him everywhere, even though he and Bitsy go on and on and on about how safe Los Alamos is.

Time goes on, Davey gets used to this school, which is extremely cliquey and she doesn’t fit in much of anywhere. She does get close with Jane, but Davey thinks Jane is an alcoholic. Davey’s mom remains a basket-case, and Davey is losing patience with her. Bitsy and Walter are proving to be way more over-protective than Davey is used to and there are some issues. Like they won’t let her go skiing, because she could wind up a vegetable. They won’t let her take Driver’s Ed, etc. Mom never jumps in with her opinion.

Davey becomes a candy-striper at the local hospital where she befriends a cancer patient named Mr. Ortiz. He is a man who remains cheerful despite his grim prognosis. Mr. Ortiz is always trying to set Davey up with his son who visits every evening after Davey’s shift. One day the son, Martin, comes early and guess who it is??? It’s Wolf! Davey and Wolf talk about their fathers. Sweet.

Eventually, Mr. Ortiz dies and Wolf goes back to his classes at Cal Tech. He leaves a note for Davey, saying he’ll see her “cuando los lagatijos coreen,” (when the lizards run). That is springtime in the canyon.

Davey’s mom is getting slightly better. She gets a temp job at the lab. A man from the lab asks her to lunch and she accepts, which makes Davey absolutely ill to think about. His name is Ned, but Davey calls him the Nerd. He starts hanging around the house and even goes to dinner a few times with Davey’s mom. Davey hates him. She writes letters to Wolf, which helps to get things off her chest. She doesn’t have his address, so she saves up these letters.

One night Davey gets in a fight with Walter over her grades, which were just average. Walter, in what is possibly the most dick-headed thing anyone has ever said in a novel, asked Davey would she like to end up like her father? Working in a store, wasting his life? Obvs Davey is furious and says she is going to tell her mom what Walter said. Walter is all “fine. She knows. If he had been a better man, she wouldn’t be where she is now.” That is the second most dick-headed thing anyone has ever said in a novel. Davey tells Walter she hates him, and he slaps her right across the face.

Davey’s mom convinces her to go see her shrink, Miriam. Davey goes once, but doesn’t really see the point in going back. Although Miriam did help Davey with what Davey perceives to be Jane’s drinking problem. She gave Davey some pamphlets about teen alcohol rehab centers.

Time goes by. Davey gets the lead in the school play, Oklahoma and brings down the house. She eventually goes back to Miriam and tells her the whole story of the night her dad died. Davey was behind the store with her boyfriend, Hugh when they heard what they thought were firecrackers. They went into the store and blood was everywhere. Davey’s dad was still alive and said “Help me…help me Davey.” She held him and said she’d help him, but he died in her arms. The paramedics allowed her to ride to the hospital with him. She wanted to help him, but couldn’t.

After telling Miriam, Davey runs home and pulls out a paper bag, which has all of her blood-soaked clothes from the night her dad died. She goes to the canyon and burries them under a pile of rocks, along with a breadknife she has slept with since the night of her father’s murder. And I can just forsee that in the future someone will find a sharp knife and bloodsoaked clothes which will begin a murder investigation. Jeez.

Toward the end of the school year, Mom takes Davey out to dinner. She says that Ned asked her to marry him, but she said no. She is feeling better now and feels well enough to move back to Atlantic City. The book ends with them moving back and walking down the beach.

  • Davey believes (remember this is 1981) that the opening of casinos will really pull Atlantic City out of the gutter. Cause, we all know that is exactly what happened.
  • As much as I can’t stand Bitsy and Walter, I do feel bad for them. They weren’t able to have kids, and they (particularly Bitsy) really seemed to relish this chance to take care of Davey and Jason.
  • I am 100% with Davey on feeling ill over her mom dating Ned. Jesus, take a little time to get over your dead husband will you? It couldn’t have been more than 6 or 8 months since his death…..way to early to get back into the dating pool if you ask me.
  • Although I sympathized with Davey about wanting her mom to stop acting like a basket case, Davey never stops to realize, that her mom was completely supportive of her right after their dad’s murder when she went 13 days without washing. I know Davey is only 15 years old, but I wish that she had been more understanding.
  • Jane is not only a drunk, but she’s racist to boot! I have no idea what Davey sees in her as a friend. When they went shopping in Santa Fe, Jane didn’t even want to walk on the same side of the street as some hispanic guys. Then she told Davey that “all” the hispanic guys care about is raping Anglo girls. Fo’ real????? AND Jane is all worried about Davey’s relationship with Wolf. Because his last name is Ortiz. But when Davey tells her that he goes to college and worked for a semester at the lab NOT doing maintenance, Jane was like “you should have told me that earlier.” Yeah, Jane. It’s Davey’s fault you’re a racist bitch.
  • This has nothing to do with Tiger Eyes. But do you ever read a book that is sooooo good you just know you’re going to go around recommending it to people for the rest of your life? Well, I just finished that book….The Book Thief, by Markus Zusak. Read it, and I personally guarantee that you won’t be sorry you did!

About nikkihb

Wife. Mother. Reader. Blogger.
This entry was posted in dead parents, Judy Blume. Bookmark the permalink.

7 Responses to "You don’t know your ass from your armpit"…or Tiger Eyes

  1. colleenn says:

    I thought I never read this (sounds really good though), but that part about “when the lizards run” sounds so familiar. I have no idea where I’m getting it from though.It seems like in lots of these YA novels the girls have unusal and/or unisex names. I never noticed that before, but it seems like every book you review has a strikingly named female heroine. 🙂

  2. nikki says:

    colleenn, I totally agree. In general I don’t love masculine sounding names for girls. But I ADORE the name Davey. Which is short for Davis, by the way.

  3. BadKat says:

    Actually, I might be quite taken by a guy who can hold a conversation about the Anasazi. “Anglo girls”? Wow…

  4. zanne says:

    I finally figured out which Sleepover Friends book you mentioned on my blog awhile back. It’s the one where they go visit Stephanie’s grandmother in Maine and have to take some kind of small plane to get there. The book is #27 Where’s Patti? I just finished reading it.Anyway, just wanted to let you know! I was going to do the books in order, but I can do that one next if you want. Let me know!

  5. Mellz Bellz says:

    Just stumbled upon your blog and now reading the old posts to catch myself up. Tiger Eyes is the ONE Judy Blume book I think I took out of the library a number of times, but never got into. I wanted to read it after I think Mary Ann mentioned she read it in one of the BSC books, but never got past the first few pages. I'll have to check this one out.

  6. ~*April*~ says:

    I don’t know if you heard about this or not but they are making a Tiger Eyes movie! http://insidemovies.ew.com/2013/03/11/judy-blumes-tiger-eyes-coming-to-big-screen-and-v-o-d-on-june-7-exclusive/

  7. Pingback: Tiger Eyes: The Movie | Are You There Youth? It's Me, Nikki

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