I know I expected mystery and soul searching when I picked up Tiffany Sly Lives Here Now, but what I wasn’t prepared for was a book about family and belonging. Not to mention Marcus and Tiffany are great characters that have incredibly deep conversations.
For sixteen-year-old Tiffany Sly, life hasn’t been safe or normal for a while. Losing her mom to cancer has her a little bit traumatized and now she has to leave her hometown of Chicago to live with the biological dad she’s never known.
Anthony Stone is a rich man with four other daughters—and rules for every second of the day. Tiffany tries to make the best of things, but she doesn’t fit into her new luxurious, but super-strict, home—or get along with her standoffish sister London. The only thing that makes her new life even remotely bearable is the strange boy across the street. Marcus McKinney has had his own experiences with death, and the unexpected friendship that blossoms between them is the only thing that makes her feel grounded.
But Tiffany has a secret. Another man claims he’s Tiffany’s real dad—and she only has seven days before he shows up to demand a paternity test and the truth comes out. With her life about to fall apart all over again, Tiffany finds herself discovering unexpected truths about her father, her mother and herself, and realizing that maybe family is in the bonds you make—and that life means sometimes taking risks.
What stood out to me most in Tiffany Sly Lives Here Now were the characters/family dynamic and the themes. Both of these were sort of dark horse elements for me. I was expecting to fall in love with the plot. While it was still very interesting – I ultimately stayed for the themes and characters.
Tiffany instantly drew me in. She was polite, terrified, and intelligent. At the same time she was sassy, nuanced, and incredibly intelligent. Tiffany has severe anxiety and OCD. (She also has alopecia) What I loved about her, relating to her mental health, was that she discusses her process figuring out she had these mental health issues as well as how she feels regarding the medication she is taking. This is the first novel I can remember that discusses this and the stigma regarding mental health medications versus drugs.
(Tiffany also has a sister who is on the autistic spectrum and her family are Jehovah Witnesses).
Tiffany is also black and she has so many conversations about what it means for her to grow up without representation, to wish she looked like ‘other girls’, those who pass as white, all the way to the stereotypes about her anger. Every conversation she had about her identity and her intersectionality were so amazing. And she wasn’t done learning.
One of Tiffany’s friends, Marcus is this amazing character who knows first hand what it’s like to feel like an Outlier, like an Outsider in so many ways – he is black, he chooses to non-confrom in the way he dresses, and he doesn’t appreciate this social game we play to fit into other people’s expectations. Marcus was this fantastic character who came out of the ‘side character’ box and found a place in my heart. I don’t want to talk more about Marcus, because I need you to discover him for yourself!
So a huge theme is family. Is family something we feel essentially? Something in our bones, a humming in our blood? What makes up a family and how do we become a parent? As someone who is adopted, I’ve always thought about this issue – if there was something I was missing because I didn’t know my birth parents. I’ve laid awake at night wondering if I saw them on the street, would I feel a tug in my stomach? Because of the way Tiffany talks about and deals with this issue was amazing. The creation of the family is such an important issue in the book. Family is an organic relationship that is different between each individual as one size doesn’t fit all.
Tiffany Sly Lives Here is a book that explores the ways we find out the truths, the mistakes, and the secrets of our parents. None of it stays buried. It is about Tiffany and her growth, but it’s also about family. The book is complex and packs a real punch. Do we pick our family or does our family pick us? Check out Tiffany Sly Lives Here on Goodreads.