From the Publisher
*"Cormier is in top form in this cilling portrait...a sense of 'tenderness' pervades this gripping tale."
School Library Journal, starred review
"Cormier's latest is a mesmerizing plunge into the mind of a psychopathic teen killer that is both deeply disturbing and utterly compelling."
"A serial killer; an aging cop with a hunch; an impulsive 15-year-old runaway: Three familiar characters are spun by a master of suspense into another disturbing study in emotional dysfunction."
"Rarely has Cormier's irony been darker...readers will stay on the edge of their seats."
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Rarely has Cormier's irony been darker than in this violent tale of obsession, which explores the psyches of a serial killer and the teenage runaway who cannot resist his charm. Lori Cranston hitchhikes to Massachusetts with the intention of trailing a rock star, but she is sidetracked in a diner when she sees the face of convicted murderer Eric Poole flash across the television screen, on the eve of his release from a juvenile facility. Remembering a chance encounter with Eric and how he treated her with "tenderness," Lori plans how they may reunite. Meanwhile Eric plots how to get away with murder No. 4. Readers will stay on the edge of their seats as the paths of the two youths converge and intertwine. The bond of trust built between the characters is overshadowed by an aura of inevitable doom; most will guess that Lori's days with Eric are numbered, but few will be prepared for the brutal paradoxes of their deadly parting. Disturbing evocations of sexual harassment, abuse and remorseless cruelty throughout the novel will have a more lasting, haunting effect than the author's somewhat watered-down message about the yearning to be loved. Ages 14-up. (Apr.)
The ALAN Review - Brian Barnes
Another psychopathic killer? Yes, what else should we expect from the craftful mind of Robert Cormier? In Tenderness, readers can expect a novel that numbs, terrifies, and angers - all at once. In this novel, Eric Poole is the enemy, and his malicious behavior reflects previous Cormier antagonists such as Archie Costello and Brother Leon. But don't let this characterization fool you! Cormier makes sure that this enemy exhibits a variety of likable features. The twist in the novel occurs when Lori Cranston, a fifteen-year-old girl, becomes fixated on Eric Poole and decides that she must meet him. Her determination is inspiring to readers, but her tenacity eventually leads her into a troublesome predicament. Her craving for tenderness is the only hope she has left, and her future depends on the erratic behavior of Eric Poole. Readers of Robert Cormier can expect another fantastic novel that explores the complexity of the human psyche. Cormier, once again, proves that the ending to a novel can always be a surprise.
VOYA - Florence M. Munat
The two main characters in this novel are Eric Poole, an eighteen-year-old psychopath who has just been released from a juvenile detention facility where he was sent after murdering his mother and stepfather; and Lori Cranston, a sexually active fifteen-year-old runaway who has developed a "fixation" on Eric. The only other character of note is a police lieutenant nearing retirement who is keeping a close watch on Eric, because he suspects Eric murdered two teenage girls before his incarceration. In fact, Eric has gone unpunished for murdering three girls, all of whom had long dark hair that reminded him of his sexually abusive mother. He believes Lori (who is blonde) may have witnessed one of these murders three years earlier. As he drives her through the back roads of New England in his van, he begins to plan Lori's murder. Cormier's vivid characterizations highlight this book in which action is secondary. While depicting Eric as an emotionally remote, monstrous murderer, and Lori as a girl who deceives her mother and trades sexual favors for money, Cormier performs literary magic by making us empathize with these two teenagers who live at society's far edges. He gets inside the heads of a precocious runaway and a psychopath-no easy feat-and reveals both Eric's and Lori's great need for love. The words "tender" and "tenderness" occur dozens of times as the story unfolds in alternating points of view (Eric's third-person and Lori's first-person). Both characters are desperately seeking tenderness, and in a way they end up providing it for one another. VOYA Codes: 5Q 5P S (Hard to imagine it being any better written, Every YA (who reads) was dying to read it yesterday, Senior High-defined as grades 10 to 12).
School Library Journal
Gr 6 UpCormier is in top form in this chilling portrait of a serial murderer. Eric Poole has progressed from killing kittens, cats, and a canary to parents and unsuspecting young women. Now 18, he has paid for his mother and stepfather's murders with three years of juvenile detention and is ready to continue his "plan." Unfortunately, his looks and shallow charm are as pleasing on the outside as his character is ugly on the inside. The story unfolds through the eyes of two characters: Eric, and the luckless 15-year-old Lori, a runaway who met Eric once when she was 12 and is drawn to him like a moth to the flame. Even when she realizes his guilt, after he attempts to kill her, she can not desert him. The ugliness of the story contrasts with the beauty of the language. Perfectly titled with characteristic irony, a sense of "tenderness" pervades this gripping tale. Where other, lesser writers would have screamed the story in full-blown tabloid prose, Cormier is the model of decorum. No overt blood and gore are needed for this author to terrify his readers. Eric is not an antihero. Sympathy is not so much for the undeserving villain, but for the society that spawned and neutered him. A meaty horror study that's a fine substitute for the anemic, but popular "Fear Street" books.Marilyn Payne Phillips, University City Public Library, MO
A serial killer; an aging cop with a hunch; an impulsive 15-year-old runaway: Three familiar characters are spun by a master of suspense into another disturbing study in emotional dysfunction.
Convicted in the less punitive juvenile courtjust as he had plannedfor the murder of his mother and stepfather, Eric Poole has served his three years, and is slated for release on his 18th birthday. Outwardly guileless and extremely charming, he has convinced everyone that he was a victim of abuse (with self- inflicted scars as evidence) who struck back. Only Lt. Jake Proctor, who suspects Eric in the unsolved murder of two teenage girls, is skeptical. Enter Lori, a rootless girl with scars on her wrist, a woman's body, and the memory of a clean- cut boy who was nice to her years ago. Both she and Eric are searching for "tenderness"which means, for her, safety and respect, and for him, the fierce inner response after he holds a life in his hands and then takes it. Cormier (In the Middle of the Night, 1995, etc.) draws the strings taut as Eric decides what to do with Lori, and Proctor watches and waits for a chance to get Eric back behind bars before he can kill again. In a devastatingly ironic climax, Lori helps Eric evade Proctor's trap, then dooms him by dying under suspicious but entirely accidental circumstances. Almost everyone here is a victim; one is a monster.
Read an Excerpt
"You're a psychopath, Eric." The smoke came out of the lieutenant's mouth as if his words were stoked by an inner fire. "A monster."
Eric recoiled, as if the old cop had struck him in the face. Monster?
"Chances are you'll kill again. You know it and I know it."
Or was the old cop merely trying to taunt him? Trying to make him lose his cool? Don't let him do that. Monster was only a word, anyway. And those were the only weapons the lieutenant had: words.
"You're taking a lot for granted, Lieutenant," Eric said, the sound of his voice reassuring, establishing his control of the conversation once more. "You're making wild accusations. I wasn't even convicted by a jury. A judge heard my case. He didn't think I was a monster. He was very sympathetic. So were a lot of other people."
"Other people? Did you take a close look at them? Who they were, what they were? You killed your mother and father, Eric. In cold blood." Not sounding tired anymore.
Eric did not smile but his eyes gleamed. The lieutenant did not know about the others. Nobody knew about them.