Published by Delacorte Press on March 10th, 1997
Genres: young adult
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Eighteen-year-old Eric has just been released from juvenile detention for murdering his parents. Now he's looking for tenderness--tenderness he finds in killing girls. Fifteen-year-old Lori has run away from home again. Emotionally naive and sexually precocious, she is also looking for tenderness--tenderness that she finds in Eric. Will Lori and Eric be each other's salvation or destruction?
Ugh. I don’t really have much to say about this book other than: what a waste of time. I can see what the author was trying to do here, but Tenderness slogged in the middle and ended prematurely.
I had a hard time reading through this because the characters were just hard to stomach. The male main character, Eric Poole, is a sociopathic serial killer, who started out with animals at first. And we have to read as he relives those moments with kittens, cats, mice. I almost stopped reading at that point, but because of the popularity of Cormier and his books, I had faith that this would all matter later. Unfortunately, I think these details were just added to screw with the reader, and to convince us of Eric’s monstrous behavior. As for Lori, the other main character, she was easier to deal with relative to Eric, but on her own, just as difficult to read about. She doesn’t really understand what’s appropriate and what isn’t appropriate as far as sexual behavior goes. She’s been victimized by the men in her life (step-dad type figures) and believes that it’s normal, I guess. So she let’s the guy at the music shop feel her up so she can get free CD’s. She hitches rides with strange men and let’s them feel her up in exchange for money. She tracks down a rock star and throws herself onto him (literally.)
It takes over half of the book for these characters to finally come together and for the plot to actually start. When they do finally meet, Eric has an inner tug of war over whether or not to kill her. She’s not his ‘type’ but she knows too much and she’s putting a hitch in his plans to get back to killing teenage girls. So they go on this sort-of road trip together and get to know one another.
It seems like Tenderness might be on its way to be a story about “recovery” of some sort. Of two characters coming together and being right for each other and helping the other heal. But the novel ends so quickly and suddenly that it’s left feeling unfinished. There’s no real resolution. I mean, it does have an actual ending, but when you reach it, you’re left wondering what the point of it all was.
I do see what the author did with his construction of Eric Poole. A teenage killer with no empathy or way to feel anything is not a character we see too often. Eric had the feel of authenticity that’s for sure. But that doesn’t mean I enjoyed reading his chapters or that I felt the novel was strong enough to carry a character like him. With as short as this book is, I expected more tension and a faster pace. Unfortunately I was left feeling disappointed and like I had wasted my time. I’m giving it an extra star just for the ballsiness of the book itself.