Review: Tigers, Not Daughters by Samantha Mabry

The Torres sisters dream of escape. Escape from their needy and despotic widowed father, and from their San Antonio neighborhood, full of old San Antonio families and all the traditions and expectations that go along with them. In the summer after her senior year of high school, Ana, the oldest sister, falls to her death from her bedroom window. A year later, her three younger sisters, Jessica, Iridian, and Rosa, are still consumed by grief and haunted by their sister’s memory. Their dream of leaving Southtown now seems out of reach. But then strange things start happening around the house: mysterious laughter, mysterious shadows, mysterious writing on the walls. The sisters begin to wonder if Ana really is haunting them, trying to send them a message—and what exactly she’s trying to say.

  • Title: Tigers, Not Daughters
  • Author: Samantha Mabry
  • Publisher: Algonquin Young Readers
  • Genre: YA, Mystery-Thriller, Magical Realism 
  • Targeted Age Range: Young Adult
  • Trigger Warnings: abuse, death of a family member (sister), alcohol, drunk driving, death of an animal, car accident, grief, parental neglect / absent parents, death of a parent (mother), emetophobia, violence 
  • Rating:  ★★★★☆

Major thank you to Algonquin Young Readers for providing me with an eGalley! 

If I had to compare Tigers, Not Daughters to any song, it’d probably be “seven” by Taylor Swift — more specifically, “I’ve been meaning to tell you / I think your house is haunted / your dad is always mad and that must be why.” Set a year after Ana Torres’ passing, Tigers, Not Daughters follows the three younger Torres’ sisters: Jessica, Iridian, and Rosa, as they learn how to grieve, heal and recover. The four sisters had always wanted to leave Southtown; to be more and to find their freedom, but with Ana’s death, and with the strange happenings that keep occurring around their house, this dream seems more impossible than ever. As the story progresses, Jessica, Iridian, and Rosa start noticing that the strange occurrences happening to them — witnessing hyenas, hearing laughter, writing on the walls — can only come from one person: Ana. 

To be quite honest, I’ve been in the middle of a reading slump, but I found myself enthralled by Tigers, Not Daughters. Once I started reading, I simply couldn’t put it down. Tigers, Not Daughters is written in third-person with multiple POVs, allowing us to spend time with Jessica, Iridian, and Rosa, as well as their neighbors. By doing so, we’re given the chance to better understand each sister, their motivations, and their feelings. I also really enjoyed the chapters that were told from their neighbor, Hector, and his friends’ perspectives. I found it so fascinating to read about how people viewed the Torres’ family. I’ve always been curious to know how other people perceive me, and so being able to have that insight on how the Torres’ were viewed by their community was super interesting! 

Throughout the course of the book, I was really focused on trying to figure out why Ana’s ghost was here, and what she wanted to say. The sisterly bond in Tigers, Not Daughters transcends death and is a true testament to family ties. One of the biggest strengths of Tigers, Not Daughters, was the characters. While it took me longer to connect with some sisters more than others, I truly found myself rooting for and relating to them all in different ways. I loved how much Rosa cared for animals, Iridian’s love for books and writing, and Jessica’s anger, but what I loved most was how strong they could be when they put their differences aside and leaned on one another. 

With Mabry’s vivid imagery and lyrical writing, I could so easily picture the Torres’ sisters, their lives, and their surroundings. Mabry’s writing is incredibly atmospheric, and I felt like I was transported into another world. I kept highlighting passages in my Kindle, and I’m sure I’ll be thinking about the beautiful prose of Tigers, Not Daughters for days to come.

If you know anything about me, you should know that I love stories that make me feel something — especially when that something is hurt. Tigers, Not Daughters felt like an eerie, magical realistic, darker version of Little Women, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. Tigers, Not Daughters is many things — an exquisite story about family, grief, and healing, a story about what it’s like to embrace your anger, about what it’s like to reach your breaking point and put yourself first, and to stand up for yourself. 

Links for Tigers, Not Daughters: Goodreads | TheStorygraph | Bookshop | IndieBound

samantha was born four days before the death of john lennon. she grew up in dallas, playing bass guitar along to vinyl records in her bedroom after school, writing fan letters to rock stars, doodling song lyrics into notebooks, and reading big, big books.

in college at southern methodist university, she majored in english literature, minored in spanish, and studied latin and classics. after that, she went on to receive a master’s degree in english from boston college.

these days, she teaches at a community college and spends as much time as possible in the west texas desert.

photo credit: paxton maroney

Follow Samantha: Website | Instagram | Twitter

6 thoughts on “Review: Tigers, Not Daughters by Samantha Mabry

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