Last fall, when I had finished reading every article on the internet about h1n1 while sweating out chills and fever at home, I picked up a young-adult book I had bought at the recent Vancouver Public Library book sale: Tiger Eyes, by Judy Blume (Bradbury Press). I read this book many years ago and remembered virtually nothing about the plot, but everything about the cover illustration of a girl with sad eyes, which I loved.
The main character in the story is Davey, a teenager adjusting to life in Los Alamos after her dad gets killed working at a 7 -Eleven in Atlantic City. Los Alamos is an isolated community high in the mountains of New Mexico and home to one of the largest nuclear weapons laboratories in the U.S., which most of the characters in the book are connected to in one way or another. As Davey deals with her grief, her mom falls into depression and Davey is left to answer to her aunt and uncle, who view Los Alamos as a safe bubble from the violence and misfortune that lie in wait out in “the real world.”
Davey would make a great role model for the demographic for which this book was intended: she volunteered at the hospital, tried out her mom’s therapist, spent lots of time outdoors, challenged her uncle’s myopic opinions and confronted her friend about binge drinking. I would definitely recommend it to all young adults, if I knew any. Tiger Eyes was listed on the 100 Most Commonly Challenged Books in the U.S. during 1990–2001 (a “challenge” is a formal request that the book be removed from shelves because of content) thanks to its themes of “alcoholism, suicide, anti-intellectualism, and violence.”
For me, the three hours I spent rereading Tiger Eyes was a much- needed respite from h1n1 hysteria. It also gave me a peek into what seem to have been simpler times— although now I see that living in Los Alamos during the early 1980 s may not have been simple at all. I guess every generation has its defining issues to deal with, be it the threat of nuclear war or a viral epidemic.