As a child, I definitely read — and loved! — Judy Blume books. Freckle Juice was probably the first of my “favorite books that I could read to myself.” I think it may have been the fact that I was so sympathetic to Andrew’s plight, as I *desperately* wished that I could have freckles, like my sister and cousins, but was stuck with skin that tanned instead. Then I found Superfudge… I was in stitches over his crazy antics and sometimes got in trouble for reading when I should have been doing homework! I was thrilled when, as a relatively new YS librarian, I discovered that Blume had continued the story with Double Fudge, and vowed to read these stories to my baby when he got older.
Yet, I missed something MAJOR along the way. Somehow, I managed not to read any of Judy Blume’s YA books when I was a teen! WHAT?!? Surely, some of my friends must have read them… But, for whatever reason, they never passed them along and I never found them on my own. When I was in library school, I was made aware of the egregious error and read Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret. Oh, how I wished someone had given me that book when I was a pre-teen! I also read Forever and thought, “This is another book I will have to be sure to own before my kids become teenagers.” I mean, Judy Blume just *gets* kids and teens; she deftly handles topics like puberty, teen love, and sex without shame or sounding like a textbook.
Last summer, when Tiger Eyes came out in theaters, I added the audiobook to my OverDrive wishlist. The wait list was pretty long, and I wanted to give my library teens a chance to read it first, so I didn’t make an actual request at the time. I figured I would wait for the demand to die down and then make my own request later. Sadly, I forgot about it until I was looking for an audiobook on my phone last week. I got sucked in so utterly that I found myself popping in my earbuds for more than just my daily walk; I listened when I was prepping dinner, folding laundry, mowing the lawn, and even at bedtime on a night when my husband was out with friends. It usually takes me much longer to get through a YA audiobook in summer, since most of my commuting time is dedicated to the audiobooks I share with my [now, 9-year-old] son… but I finished this audiobook in only three days because Davey’s story grabbed my by the heart and refused to let go.
After listening to Tiger Eyes, I was extremely disappointed that none of the adults who were in my life during my middle and high school years thought of this book (or bibliotherapy in general) as a way to help me combat the anxiety and depression from which I suffered after my best friend’s sudden death. I was only in 8th grade, but I was expected to simply get on with my life and to “get over” her death. I was instructed to stop dwelling on it and to stop worrying all the time, though I was never offered therapy or medication [or anything, really] to help with the process. And while my friend’s death was not the result of an act of violence like Davey’s father, Davey’s feelings of helplessness, despair, depression, anger, and anxiety mirrored those that consumed me for many years. On Blume’s website, she makes the statement that “Tiger Eyes isn’t about violence. It’s about the sudden, tragic loss of someone you love.” And I could not agree more. This story further solidified my theory that Blume’s books are accessible and universal enough that they should probably be required reading for tweens and teens everywhere. You’d better believe I’m adding a copy of this book to my home bookshelf… I’m just going to pray that my kids never need to read it.