Rob's mother is dead, and his father might as well be, as closed up as he is toward Rob. One might say they live together at the ratty Kentucky Star motel in Florida, but what they do can't really be considered 'living.'
Then Rob meets two new friends. The first can't really be considered a friend - a beautiful tiger, caged somewhere in the middle of the thick Florida forests. The second is Sistine, a troubled girl who can't wait to get out of the south.
Against all odds (ha ha), these three are going to get out of their respective cages with each others' help.
...Maybe. Then again, maybe not.
The main problem lies with this book's length. At 128 pages, with big font and wide spacing, it's a tiny, tiny story without enough space to really develop anyone. And it shows. I despised all the characters - even the tiger. How can I dislike a tiger? I don't know. But I did. Its symbol of the caged spirit was so ham-fisted I just wanted it to go away.
However, the most annoying thing I picked out of The Tiger Rising was Sistine, the prerequisite 'inspirational' girl. I find they're irritating on a general basis, but Sistine... holy guacamole, she's despicable. Angry and pushy and bossy and disrespectful and AUGH. Someone tell Rob that not all girls are like that and that he shouldn't take a cue from beautiful Miss Sistine. The first time Sistine said 'I hate the South,' I despised her, but I thought she'd get better. Not at all. She pretty much stays the same. All the way through.
It's a good thing I was reading a library book. Otherwise I might have taken a knife to it.
Besides Sistine, the whole plot was just too underdeveloped. A tiger in the forest? Okay. I won't say why it's there, but the reason is incredibly unlikely. I'm always willing to suspend my disbelief - to a point. This stretched that point.
Everything that happened was so hazy in that slice-of-life, everything-is-significant way that I don't really remember what happened. Except that I was bored to death. And that I wanted to kill Sistine, and sometimes Beauchamp (the villain), and sometimes Rob's dad. And sometimes Rob himself.
And the ending. Don't get me started on the ending. Just... why? After setting up the tiger as the symbol of freedom, and then DiCamillo did... that to it? I realize that some reality is needed, but honestly. The whole set-up was just so cheesy and so contrived.
I really expected better. But I guess that's why you don't judge an author by one book. Read The Tale of Despereaux instead.