Disclaimer: Certain plot details from Dana L. Davis’ Tiffany Sly Lives Here Now will be discussed in this article. Spoilers ahead.
As indicated by the title, Davis’ novel tells the story of Tiffany Sly, a teenage girl from Chicago, who recently lost her mother to cancer. As a result of this tragedy, she goes to live with her estranged father, Anthony Stone, a doctor residing in California with his own family – a wife and four daughters. As if this, alongside her mother’s death, was not enough, Tiffany is left reeling from another upset: after a visit from another man prior to leaving Chicago, there may be a chance that Anthony Stone might not even be her real father. What’s left is Tiffany struggling to adapt to life in California with a family she may not truly belong to, while awaiting the deadline of her court-mandated paternity test.
As I was reading through this book, there was not a moment where my mind was not simmering in turmoil. I found Tiffany to be a likeable character, from how I related to a lot of her inner-most thoughts to the genre of music she adored, and Tiffany’s narration of the novel’s events was written in an impressively engaging manner that drew me in. Davis also introduces early on that Tiffany suffers from anxiety, which could manifest itself physically at times through alopecia, and later divulges her OCD tendencies; this made for an intriguing portrayal of a mentally ill person of color that you rarely find written in a young adult novel, and written well, for that matter.
However, while I was drawn to the realistic narrative, Tiffany Sly is also riddled with many variations of abuse, specifically from her so-called father, Anthony Stone. Anthony is introduced as a devout Jehovah’s Witness, which is consistently referred to and credited for many of the parenting choices that Anthony, and subsequently his wife, implements in raising their children. Yet, the behavior that Anthony displays surpasses that of the super-strict and religious father, and leaps straight into abusive father. Just as one example, one of the first things he does to Tiffany is forbid the use of her hair extensions; due to her alopecia, the extensions provided Tiffany with a sense of security and privacy in what her anxiety had done to her, and the removal of such a security is psychologically damaging at best.
The worst and most painful manifestation of abuse, however, is depicted in Anthony’s treatment toward Pumpkin, his youngest daughter who is autistic. If that isn’t enough to send you reeling, the fact that the abuse directed toward Pumpkin is never properly addressed by novel’s end should. Anthony apologizes to Tiffany – which actually does little to empower the theme of forgiveness here – but does not do the same for Pumpkin. It’s disheartening, and was hard to stomach by the time all was said and done.
Tiffany Sly Lives Here Now is an incredibly well-written story that broaches several painful topics, and it does well in focusing on the struggles of this family unit rather than a development of teen romance, but I am hesitant to add more praise than that. Perhaps there were good intentions behind addressing these topics, but unfortunately, Davis’ neglect in fully exploring these issues, the consequences left on her characters, and the lack of redeeming qualities in the sole antagonist, does little to offer the book redemption.
Tiffany Sly Lives Here Now by Dana L. Davis is now available for purchase.