(Review originally posted on my livejournal account: http://intoyourlungs.livejournal.com/35019.html)Why I Read It:
I read and loved Because of Winn-Dixie back in December, so I've set out to read the rest of DiCamillo's middle-grade novels. This book is VERY short, so it was the perfect book to read on my breaks at work.
I've only read two (out of five) of DiCamillo's middle grade work, but I can already see why DiCamillo is such a celebrated author in the Middle Grade age group. The Tiger Rising is a beautifully written novel that deals with tough issues while being incredibly accessible to the target demographic as well as older readers such as myself.
The protagonist of the story, Rob Horton, is having a tough time: his mother has recently passed away, so he and his father moved in order to have a "fresh start". He's constantly picked on at his new school, and the motel him and his father now live in is less than ideal. Throughout the course of the story, I wanted to dive into the pages, grab Rob and just give him a giant hug. The kid is hurting so bad and he doesn't know what to do with all the hurt except lock it up in what he describes as his trunk where he keeps all his good feelings: hope, happiness, memories of his mother. UGH, guys, it was all so SAD. DiCamillo knows how to tug on my heartstrings.
Thankfully for Rob though, he makes fast friends with Sistine Bailey, who is Rob's perfect foil. Where Rob hides his feelings, Sistine is prone to lashing out and making all her feelings known. Underneath all her anger though, there's a lot of hurt too. Her parents have recently divorced, and she was dragged to Florida by her mother. But Sistine is convinced that her father is going to come fetch her. While Sistine didn't induce the omg-I-need-to-hug you feelings in me because of her prickliness, I did feel incredibly sorry for her as well. Her and Rob, as I mentioned above, are perfect foils for each other in how they deal with their grief, and while they have their tiffs and differences, they're ultimately perfect for each other in learning to deal with their hurt and anger.
The writing in the novel is beautiful: it has a hint of being lyrical, it's soulful and the hurt and pain infused in the words is visceral, but it still feels like an authentic twelve-year old voice, as the story is narrated from Rob's POV.Final Judgment:
I am now *definitely* determined to read the rest of DiCamillo's work. She's an incredibly gifted author that writes poignant stories of grief, loss, but ultimately, hope, that I imagine by 12-year old self would have been able to relate to had I read these at that age (but that I find myself enjoying a lot at THIS age, and I'm 22.) The writing is beautiful, but I still always felt like I was being told this story from a 12-year old's POV; the voice never felt too old to be Rob's. The two main characters, Rob and Sistine, are perfectly foils for one another, and watching their grieving and healing processes was touching.