Monday 12 August 2019

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Review: How to Make Friends With the Dark by Kathleen Glasgow

How to Make Friends With the Dark by Kathleen Glasgow

How to Make Friends With the Dark by Kathleen Glasgow

Published: Rock the Boat | Publisher: 11th April 2019 | Cover Illustrator: Anders R√łkkum | Cover Designer: Jennifer Heuer | Source: Bought
Kathleen Glasgow's Website

Here is what happens when your mother dies.

It’s the brightest day of summer and it’s dark outside. It’s dark in your house, dark in your room, and dark in your heart. You feel like the darkness is going to split you apart.

That’s how it feels for Tiger. It’s always been Tiger and her mother against the world. Then, on a day like any other, Tiger’s mother dies. And now it’s Tiger, alone.

Here is how you learn to make friends with the dark.
From Goodreads.

Trigger/Content Warnings: This book features death, grief, panic, suicide ideation, foster care, discussion of terrible foster carers, discussion of terrible home lives for children - abuse, child abduction, discussion of alcoholism and substance abuse, discussion of cancer, discussion of suicide, discussion of fatal car accident, incarceration, an abusive, controlling relationship with domestic violence, and drink driving.

After reading How to Make Friends With the Dark Author Kathleen Glasgow on You, Your Parents and the Past, a post Glasgow wrote on the Barnes and Noble Teen Blog, I bought a copy of How to Make Friends With the Dark right away. And it was such a good decision, because it blew me away. How to Make Friends With the Dark is absolutely heart-wrenching, in so many ways, but it's a powerful and important novel. It's so raw and painful, and completely devastating, but it's also hopeful and beautiful, and I simply loved it.

This is going to be a difficult review to write, because a lot happens, most of which I can't talk about without spoiling the story. Tiger's mum is the only family she has, there is no-one else, and apart from the boyfriend her mum had at one time, it's only ever been just them. So when Tiger's mum dies unexpectedly, as well as having to deal with the staggering grief of losing her mother, and the crushing guilt that their last conversation was an argument with Tiger yelling at her mum to leave her alone, she also have to deal with the fact that she is now a ward of the state. With no family to look after her, she has to go into foster care. Into the home of strangers, meeting fellow foster children, hearing their horror stories of foster care, but also their experiences of their horrifying home lives. Tiger now fears spending the next two years of her life moving from foster home to foster home until she turns 18, and being on her own, without her mum, for the rest of her life.

While How to Make Friends With the Dark is Tiger's story - which, on it's own, is agonising enough - we also hear the stories of so many other children and teenagers, and it's absolutely heartbreaking. I mean, these kids have been through the worst possible things imaginable, both in and out of care, and it's sickening and painful, and it hurts. And you can't helping thinking, as Tiger does occasionally, that Tiger is so very lucky. Her mum died. She just died, and that's why she's in care. While Tiger felt a little stifled by her mum's love occasionally, and how she always wanted to keep her with her, she was so loved. What she had was heaven compared to some of the other teens and children she meets.

But I am so, so grateful to Glasgow for including Lala. Too often in YA stories about or featuring foster care, the experiences are always awful. There's always this idea that going into foster care is one of the most terrible things that could happen to a child, but my nan was a foster carer, and I grew up with her foster children as friends or as cool, older children I looked up to, and that's not what I saw in her home at all. I appreciate that there are foster carers who are awful, but there are also foster carers who just want to give a child in need a safe home environment, where they will be loved and cared for. That's what I saw growing up, and that's what we see in Lala. She was amazing, and I loved her. And I think it's important to show the good foster carers in YA as well as the bad. Children and teens need to see them, to know it's not always terrible. That there are good foster carer's out there. That's so important.

One of the key factors about this story is Tiger's mum's past. Tiger obviously had a dad at some point, but her mum refused to ever talk about him. She knows her grandparents are dead, but her mum wouldn't talk about her childhood, either. There are secrets, and things unspoken, and while this story didn't go the way I expected because of the post Glasgow wrote on B&N Teen Blog, it's just so incredibly wonderful. At first, I was, "Oh god. Oh no, this is going to be awful," to then thinking, "This is brilliant and beautiful, and oh my god, I am so happy." I really can't talk about it, without spoiling it, but I did love it.

But so much goes on in this story. Tiger goes through hell and back, in so many ways, and it's kind of shocking the direction her story goes, and many times, I thought, "Has she not been through enough?" But I think in the end, it just shows how completely - and how quickly - someone's world can be turned upside down, what that can mean, and how finding yourself in such a situation can lead to incredibly stupid decisions.

How to Make Friends With the Dark is an emotional roller coaster, with more than a couple of punches in the gut. It's so, so upsetting, but also so wonderful and beautiful, and just so incredible. I loved it, and I absolutely will be reading Glasgow's debut novel, now, Girl in Pieces, and whatever Glasgow writes in future.

You might also like:

All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven Words in Deep Blue by Cath Crowley Summer Bird Blue by Akemi Dawn Bowman

Over to you graphic

Have you read any YA novels with positive experiences of foster care? Or brilliant YA stories where the protagonist has very few family members? What are your favourite YA novels that deal with grief and bereavement? Will you be picking up How to Make Friends With the Dark? Let me know in the comments!

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  1. I have seen this all over! I really need to check it out~

    Lotte |

  2. I only read the first paragraph of your review, because I think this is one I might enjoy knowing less about before I read it - but that was convincing enough for me to move it from my 'YA-maybe-tbr' shelf to my usual 'tbr' shelf :P