This review is going to be long as hell. I am black, so #ownvoices review.
This is long…
For sixteen-year-old Tiffany Sly, life hasn’t been safe or normal for a while. Losing her mom to cancer has her a little bit traumatized and now she has to leave her hometown of Chicago to live with the biological dad she’s never known.
Anthony Stone is a rich man with four other daughters—and rules for every second of the day. Tiffany tries to make the best of things, but she doesn’t fit into her new luxurious, but super-strict, home—or get along with her standoffish sister London. The only thing that makes her new life even remotely bearable is the strange boy across the street. Marcus McKinney has had his own experiences with death, and the unexpected friendship that blossoms between them is the only thing that makes her feel grounded.
But Tiffany has a secret. Another man claims he’s Tiffany’s real dad—and she only has seven days before he shows up to demand a paternity test and the truth comes out. With her life about to fall apart all over again, Tiffany finds herself discovering unexpected truths about her father, her mother and herself, and realizing that maybe family is in the bonds you make—and that life means sometimes taking risks.
Buy it – Amazon
I REALLY enjoyed this book.
Like in my review of American Panda, though I LOVED this story, there were a few aspects that I disliked.
What I liked :
- The cover.
The cover is beautiful! I genuinely cannot think of another like it. Most of the time, I hate covers that show the faces of cover models. But this one? I really liked it. Here’s are two pictures of me when I was Tiffany’s age:
Ignore my face. Squatting was popular in 2013.
Anyway. I’m not 17 anymore, but 17 year old me would have loved this cover.
- Back on hair. This is the first YA book where I’ve seen an entire conversation centered on hair. Hair is crazy important in the black community. No way, a black girl, will go through life with NO mention of her hair.
And it never stops. To this DAY, my parents ask me what I’m going to do with my hair. Starting school? New job? Summer? Graduation? The same question : “So what are you going to do with your hair? Braids? Wig? Natural? Like….that…..?”
Since most YA books are centered by nonblack women, you never really see full conversations about our hair.
Here’s one scene that I really connected with:
(This happens after London, Tiffany’s sister, puts down her own hair and calls it “boring”)
“What does your hair look like, anyway? Your real hair?” London asks, holding back as everyone returns to the table while I put Little Buddy away in his case.
A little like Stewie. A little like Donald Trump. A little like a nightmare. “I dunno. Regular, I guess.”
“Can’t wait to see it.” London groans. “I hate my hair. I wish it was supercurly like Heaven and Nevaeh’s. It’s so boring the way it is.”
I look at her wavy black hair hanging almost to her waist. The kind of hair I used to close my eyes and pray for when I was a little kid and thought praying to an invisible man actually produced results. Mixed-girl hair. Soft and silky and good to the root.
Dear God, I’d pray. Please let me have pretty hair. Please make my hair long and nice. When I open my eyes, okay, God? Gonna count to three. I’ll have nice hair, right, God? Please, God. Please. But I’d open my eyes and my hair would still be a nappy mess.
“Your hair’s perfect,” I admit with a twinge of jealousy.
London shrugs as if yes, maybe it is, but also she couldn’t care less. Like amazing hair is about as normal to her as a toe.”
I’ve definitely felt this way. I disliked every aspect of my hair: How long it was, the curl pattern, the way I styled it. ALL OF IT. Hated it! I didn’t grow to truly love it until I was around 20 (When it “finally” grew. We’re not unpacking that.) I definitely used to wait and wish for the day that I’d wake up with long, thick type 3 hair. Basically, for those not clued in, this was how I wanted my hair to look:
Don’t drag me.
There were literal sections purely about HAIR. Tiffany went to the shop and got a WEAVE put in. There were mentions of TRACKS. Like…I’m currently writing something, and I was terrified of writing about black hair. Which says a lot about publishing. Why would I be afraid to right about MY hair experience?
- I loved Tiffany. She is the reason this book gets four stars. Her voice was new, and original. I have never read another character like her! When the people at her school talked to her sideways? She snapped. She didn’t let anyone talk to her any old way. She wasn’t a follower, and she saw people for who they truly were. In the beginning I was skeptical. There were scenes with her describing how much she loved rock music, and I assumed this story would become a “I’m not like those OTHER black girls” type story. But it didn’t! Tiffany was proudly from the hood, and didn’t care what anyone thought! My favorite scene in the book is when Aric calls her a bitch
“Fine, then, stupid bitch.”
I turn to Aric. The Chicago girl in me boiling to the surface. “Call me a bitch again.”
Aric laughs. “Ooh, I’m so scared.”
“Like a said. Call me a bitch again.”
“I call ’em like I see ’em,” Aric replies smugly. “Bitch.”
I ball my right hand into a fist and, without so much as a second thought, connect it with his face.”
“The Chicago girl in me boiling to a surface.”
This is me! I’ve had this thought when people have tried me!
Tiffany’s experience at the school also felt SO realistic, and not dramatic at all. I can definitely imagine everything that happened, happening in real life. I didn’t go to a predominantly white high school (at ALL), but I did go to a PWI. The scene where Tiffany’s sister’s best friend acts like it’s so cool that her sister can pass as white :
“She’s my sister,” I say, sounding way too unsure of myself.
Izzy Bear’s jaw drops. “No way.”
Charlie stares at me. “So weird. You guys don’t look anything alike.”
“We have different moms, obviously,” London explains.
Izzy nods. “London, I swear sometimes I forget you’re even black. You’re so light-skinned. You could totally pass for white.”
“Why would she want to do that?” I ask, annoyed.
The color drains from Izzy’s face. “I—I meant…like…she doesn’t have to be one or the other. She doesn’t have to be labeled as anything.”
“Lucky her,” I mumble sarcastically.
Noah Fence, but a lot of white people act this way.
Days have passed and I’m STILL laughing at this:
“WHY WOULD SHE WANT TO DO THAT?!?!?!
- The Jehovah Witness representation. At times I did have issues with it, and since I’m not a religious person in the world (like Tiffany) I was annoyed by the mention of it constantly. But I loved how invested Tiffany’s sisters were in their religion. I’ll talk about my dislikes later.
- The Friendship with Marcus. I loved that her friendship with Marcus was purely platonic. Actually, now that I think about it, there WAS no romantic build up at all. As someone who reads a whole lot of romance, this didn’t even deter me from enjoying the book. Marcus was a great guy, smart, insightful, and a whole bunch of people missed out on being his friend. Just like a black woman would, Tiffany took him on as a friend regardless of the stupid talk that surrounded him.
Here’s what I disliked:
- Some of the…arcs…in this book felt a bit unfinished. (For example : We learn something, and it doesn’t get tied together by the end.)
- There is a slight “romance” between Tiffany and her teacher? I couldn’t tell if she had a crush on him, or if he was pushing it? That was never solved, it was kinda forgotten (and unnecessary)
- Now Aric. Tiffany’s Sister’s boyfriend. He…was so interesting. Half of me thought he would change, and after his conversation with Tiffany, he would go on and be a better person. Instead, he gets his shit rocked, openly admits that his family dislikes black people, then basically forces his girlfriend to have sex with him…and he leaves. Has sex with Tiffany’s sister, the condom breaks…and he disappears. What happened with him?
I feel like a lot of reviewers will say that Aric’s character is dramatized, and no one’s parents would be RACIST like that. I mean, Aric is dating a black girl right? Well it’s mentioned that, uh, Tiffany’s sister, is white passing. His parents probably don’t even know that she’s black.
- I didn’t expect the Jehovah aspect. This is the first time I’ve read this type of representation. Growing up, I knew a few people who were JW, but honestly, most of my experience was similar to what Tiffany explained.
People came to my door. We either, ignored their knocking or told them to leave us alone. My aunt was a Jehovah Witness. Because of rules (? I guess), I was never able to get to know her when she was alive.
I’m not sure if this was good or great representation. Now, this is obviously coming from someone who is not a Jehovah Witness. If I were to identify as anything, it would be Christian Baptist. (VERY slack). Coming into this book, everything was new, and to be honest, it made me slightly dislike the religion.
I hated how the religion was being forced onto Tiffany. But a lot of that pressure came from..
- HER FATHER. I hated him. To death.
Was the religion aggressive, or was her father? The idea of him pushing her into a church she had not before committed herself to? I wasn’t fine with that.
Her father was horrible. Horrible. HORRIBLE.
By the end he’s slightly redeemed, but…also not. I feel like that would have been a great aspect of the story, but it’s never fully developed. We never get to know her father, and we never get to know him as a person until the end. And even then? It wasn’t really deep, just superficial things. Like his favorite books and movies. Nothing about his family, who he is and why he is the person he is. It’s just explained that ~he just enjoys control~.
But why? From what we learn about Tiffany’s mother, I can’t see her sleeping with him at all. Let alone loving him. Something had to change in his life, or maybe he was a different person with Tiffany’s mother.
I hated him so much I almost didn’t finish the book.
It started in the beginning.
He asked her to take out her braids, because it’s a rule in his house. No one can wear extensions. (Bullshit.)
Imagine spending 3-6 hours getting your hair braided…paying $200-$300 to get it done…and then your father (that you do not know) forcing you to take them out. Because of his “house rules”:
“He reaches out and touches my hair. “Are these extensions?”
I look up. My vision blurry through my tears. “Um, yes.”
“If you’re going to live here with us, Tiffany, then I will treat you like I treat my other daughters. Same rules. You understand?”
My heart nearly stops, but I nod in understanding.
“I don’t allow extensions. You’ll have to take those out. Will you be able to have that done before school on Monday?”
“But—” I got my extensions fresh back in Chicago two days before I left. They took seven hours to put in and Grams paid nearly three hundred dollars.”
He didn’t even relent when he learned that she had alopecia. The extensions made her more confident. And some of y’all are probably reading this thinking, “Well maybe this is a good decision!”
No. A man forcing a black woman to wear her hair the way HE sees fit is not cool. We all become comfortable with our hair at our own pace!
Basically… My dad and I would fight. Constantly.
She ends up getting a natural weave put in by her neighbor. I love that natural hair was mentioned, but I HATE that she was forced to wear a straight weave to appease her father for the entirety of the story. Like that just pissed me off.
I’m not sure HOW Anthony expected Tiffany’s hair to be, but I’m suspecting similar to that of his biracial daughters.
And this was confirmed as I went on:
- She gets a weave, and he can’t even tell it’s hers.
“Look at my daughter.”
I swallow. “You like it?”
“I love it. Can’t even tell you have alopecia. See? You look so much more beautiful. Doesn’t it feel good to be natural?”
- After their three-year-old daughter has a large fit after getting her hair washed, Tiffany asks her stepmother, why she doesn’t just make her daughters crazy curly hair shorter. Here’s how Tiffany’s stepmom answers
“Have you considered cutting her hair off?”
“Margaret’s crazy eyes get as big as saucers. “Oh, my goodness, Tiffany. Anthony would never allow that. Your father…he prefers the girls’ hair long and natural.”
I mentioned above that hair is very important to black women. The idea of a man in a house, controlling the heads of all the black women living with him? No thanks. We choose what we want to do with our hair. If he wanted her to take her braids out? He should have been in charge of spending that 5-6 hours to take them out!
And…it got worst…
He was emotionally, vocally, and physically abusive. Let me count the ways.
- He has an autistic daughter. She’s two. She has fits. Instead of actively learning how to “handle” his daughter, and knowing the ins and out of autism, he just spurts out that he’s a doctor. How the hell are you a doctor and have no idea what to do with your daughter? Tiffany, ultimately was the reason that her step mother began looking at alternative methods for dealing with their autistic daughter. Tiffany is the reason they realized that their daughter may have sensory issues. She suggests a nanny, who would know what they’re doing. But her father doesn’t believe in nannies. Her father also works long hours, and he’s never home. So I don’t know why his opinion matters. He screams at his toddler, and ultimately hits her to shut her up. He hits his autistic child because he’s annoyed. In the beginning, he did not let her eat. That REALLY pissed me off. And his wife let it happen.
- He slapped Tiffany. Straight across the face. And when she went to call her grandmother? Her grandmother just lets it slide.
- Consistently refers to other black people as “ghetto” and calls them “hoodrats”. Black people who look like Tiffany, and come from the same areas as Tiffany
- Disliked Marcus’ family because his mother is queer, and from a “bad” area. Assumes that they are rich because they won the lottery. Internal racism sucks.
- After learning that she took medicine for anxiety and depression, he takes them away. I feel like Tiffany’s anxiety was written well, but the attitude in the book towards medicine was very ugh. Like when the sisters make jokes about putting their baby sister on something to calm her down. And instead of reprimanding them (as a knowledgeable DOCTOR) he says that he’d never let any of his kids get hooked on meds. Again, I don’t think it’s BAD pursue, but there was no redemption. They were never called out and taught. Tiffany’s father only gave her medicine back because she had an anxiety attack at an event. Taking away her medicine, he didn’t even consider if that they were beneficial to her. The issue was not resolved.
Anyway, those are my thoughts. I bought this on Kindle, and I will be buying a physical copy soon. This is a book that I need on my shelf!
Diversity – 1 Star
- Black family
- Queer Rep
- Jehovah Witnesses
Writing – 1 Star
Plot – 0
- I felt like there were so many loose ends.
Characters – 1
Setting – 1