I wanted to love Tyger Tyger. I’ve got a soft spot for teenagers-in-faeryland stories, and this one gets off to a terrific start. Teagan, the heroine, is working at a Chicago zoo; she plans to pursue a related career when she grows up. I can’t praise Kersten Hamilton highly enough for giving Teagan a concrete aspiration like this. The YA paranormal field is alarmingly full of heroines who seem bland without the magic or without the male lead, and have no idea what they want to do with their lives. The novel hits a snag pretty quickly, though, with the introduction of Teagan’s best friend Abby. Abby is so hyper she’s exhausting to read about. She’s rather like the Tasmanian Devil masquerading as a teenage girl.
We then meet Finn MacCumhaill, an Irish Traveler cousin whom Teagan’s family takes in. When he arrives, so do the nasty goblins of the Sidhe, and this means a lot of discussion of concepts from Irish mythology. The trouble is, the dialogue concerning Irish mythology doesn’t work as spoken dialogue. When I read a book, it plays like a movie in my mind, and I imagine the characters actually saying the dialogue. So (for example) when Finn says something about the bean sidhe, and Teagan replies “You mean ‘banshee’?”, and then Finn tells her that’s what non-Travelers call her, the whole exchange is jarring. The two spellings are pronounced similarly enough that the conversation just wouldn’t go like that. For readers who like to “hear” the dialogue in their minds, this will be distracting.
Eventually tragedy strikes. Hamilton makes the unusual decision to skip ahead several months at this point, omitting the immediate aftermath. This is also jarring, and blunts the emotional impact of the event on the reader.
After this time jump, the book does get better. Another disastrous event leads Teagan, Finn, and Teagan’s little brother Aiden into a conflict with the goblins. The goblins are incredibly creepy, and Aiden is wonderful. His dialogue is cute and his “kid logic” is sometimes just what’s needed to navigate the faery world.
Unfortunately, the plot itself never grabbed me. I went several days without reading any of Tyger Tyger, and then realized that — rather than being anxious to get back into the story — I’d in fact forgotten what was going on. Also, while Teagan was a vibrant character in the beginning, the other characters steal the spotlight from her too often in the rest of the novel. I’m not sure if it’s the book or if it’s me, but I’m giving up on this one. A different reader may well find Tyger Tyger rewarding.