Kelsey Hayes is an insecure eighteen-year-old who has just landed a summer job at a circus. The position includes room and board, and entails that she care for a pack of dogs and a white tiger. I would think that one might need some sort of experience in caring for large cats, but apparently a high school education suffices. Kelsey immediately takes to Ren the tiger, and begins feeding him special snacks and reading him Romeo and Juliet as well as poetry about cats. One day, Ren is purchased by a Mr. Kadam, who plans on taking the tiger to an animal reserve in India where he can roam free and stuff. Mr. Kadam asks Kelsey to accompany Ren on the journey. After all, she’s been working at the circus for three days or something at this point, so clearly she is qualified to travel from Oregon to India without any pushback from her foster parents or even her employers. Once in India, Kelsey learns that Ren is actually a centuries-old Indian prince who has been trapped in a tiger’s body because of a wizard’s curse. Yeah. Kelsey was tricked into this trip because the tiger king felt a special connection with her and decided that she is the special girl to help him break the curse. He tells her so when he transforms into a man, something that he is able to do for 24 minutes a day. Thus begins a magical journey of melodramatic teenage angst and supernatural adventure. Skiddley-dee.
Tiger’s Curse was actually worse than Twilight, which is actually quite an impressive feat. It clearly aspires to be Twilight, which is what makes it so offensive. Ren is an old, old man who has the hots for a teenager with no self-esteem. Sound familiar? Do teenage girls really fantasize about immortal geezers falling in love with them, or is this something that YA authors have dreamed up? I don’t know which is worse. Moreover, readers are expected to suspend disbelief to a degree that extends far beyond bedeviled were-tigers. Kelsey’s foster parents don’t bat an eye when Kelsey tells them all of the details surrounding her new job, let alone when she wants to travel across the world with some old Indian guy that she just met that day.
The improbability continues even further into the plot. Kelsey questions how Ren could possibly be attracted to someone like her, and yet she immediately accepts that he is basically the 300-year-old tiger version of the frog prince. Her immediate acceptance is annoying, and her lack of self-worth is a stale plot point in young adult fiction.
She raves about how dreamy Ren is when in human form, and describes him as “James Bond, Antonio Banderas, and Brad Pitt rolled into one.” This would be an effective description if it were 1995, but I doubt that the target audience even knows who these people are. This is only one example of how ridiculous the dialogue is – Kelsey doesn’t speak like a typical adolescent girl, and Ren doesn’t speak like an ancient prince living in modern times. The conversations are just plain cringeworthy. I repeatedly felt embarrassed that Houck thought this was acceptable writing. Behold the following: “Ren! You scared the stuffing out of me! Make a noise first or something, would you?” Yeah, teenagers say stuff like this all the time.
I’m not going to embark on a tirade about how this book represents everything that young girls should NOT aspire towards, although I really, really want to. YA fiction of this nature pisses me off to no end. Read John Green. Read JK Rowling. There are authors in this genre that can teach adolescents about life and beauty and truth instead of merely insisting that young girls need old men to find happiness.