But, I do want to post this review, because I found this book fascinating. Last week we split into groups, with each group reading a different Robert Cormier novel. (Cormier wrote The Chocolate War, if you've heard of that book.) Cormier writes what the field calls "bleak" literature, literature that doesn't carry that optimism often pervading adolescent fiction. His books are dark, but his writing is incredible. Cormier has been called the "grand master of young adult literature."
The book I read was Tenderness, his darkest novel written. And interestingly—and creepily—enough, I actually really liked it. I like it moreso after the fact, but I like it all the same.
Tenderness by Robert Cormier
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
bleak literature/psychological thriller(ish)
I'd bump it up to three and a half stars. This book follows the collision of the worlds of two dysfunctional teenagers, one of whom is a serial killer just released from juvenile detention for killing his parents, the other a seriously insecure runaway girl. The concepts in this book were so alien to me—I mean, not many people can (thankfully) relate to the psychopathology of a serial killer—and it was that exploration of Eric's mentality that kept me reading. It was a little disturbing when, by the end, I found myself sympathizing with Eric. Scary. This book made me reexamine my definition of humanity and made me think that maybe some seemingly black and white situations aren't as easy to figure out as we might think.
The writing in this book is just brilliant. Taking such an intense topic and writing for teenagers, Cormier does an expert job of creating the characters and crafting the story. He's not ever graphically explicit in the murders (no actual murder even takes place within the timeframe of the book—you just see flashbacks), and with such a serious, sensitive, and intense subject, a book like this wouldn't succeed without exceptional writing.
I think there are young adults who could handle this book, but clearly, some could not. I'm conflicted about how to feel about this book as a young adult book. I'd like to give teenagers credit when it comes to dealing with intense literature, but I also think many students wouldn't react well to this book. Oh the quandary. . . .
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I won't be as audacious as to give a blanket recommendation for this book, but it's one to consider. Don't read it if you like only happy books, and even then, read with caution. Ha.