Review: Tenderess – Robert Cormier
Published: 1997, Delacorte Press
Acquired: Bought in Waterstone’s, Picadilly Circus
Publisher’s summary: Eric has just been released from juvenile detention. Now he’s looking for some tenderness – tenderness he finds in caressing and killing innocent girls.
Lori has run away from home again. She is also looking for tenderness – tenderness that is about more than just sex, tenderness she finds in Eric.
Together, they begin a harrowing journey that will either save or destroy them.
My summary: Above all things, Eric is a charmer. He uses ‘The Charm’ (as he calls it) to get what he wants – especially girls. Girls he then kills after he’s through with them. Lori is a loner, ignored by her mother and abused by a string of men she runs away from home, not for the first time.
But when Lori sees Eric, shortly after his release from prison, she too falls for his charms and realises that she is powerless to do anything except follow whatever path Eric chooses to set for her, whether that be love or death.
What I liked: I have always been a huge fan of Robert Cormier’s work and didn’t have any doubt that I’d love Tenderness, however disturbing the premise may be. And disturbing is precisely the word to describe this book. Disturbing in a good way, though, if a good kind of disturbing exists.
However uncomfortable parts of Tenderness made me, I couldn’t stop flicking through the pages and devoured the book in two short sittings. It is one I’d recommend to fans of darker YA fiction but, be aware, it isn’t for the faint of heart and the subject matter isn’t pretty.
That said, the writing is exquisite and there were passages that I had to read out loud just to hear how brilliantly they flowed off the page. Cormier is nothing if not a beautiful master of words and he shows this off to the max in Tenderness.
So much of this book takes place inside Lori and Eric’s heads and the characterisation of both of them is wonderful. I must admit that Eric is a lot stronger than Lori and I did find myself rooting for him, despite the monster he appears to be on the outside. It takes a good writer to make the audience side with a serial killing rapist but if anyone can manage it, it’s Robert Cormier.
What I didn’t like: Honestly, there wasn’t much I didn’t enjoy about Tenderness but my main complaint is the pace of the book. The beginning is excruciatingly slow but by the time things pick up, the story is over, which is a shame as a little more action at the beginning of the novel would make this book truly brilliant.
In addition to the pace, I did find Lori quite a weak heroine and found it difficult to bond or care about her, which is always an issue as a reader. However, she does mature towards the end of the novel and comes into her own, though it does feel like too little, too late, where her personality is concerned.
First line: “Me, I get fixated on something and I can’t help myself.”
Final thoughts: A truly disturbing love story that shouldn’t be missed.
Read if you liked...: The Heart is Deceitful Above All Things – J.T Leroy