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Tenderness
Robert Cormier
Bantam Doubleday Books, 240 pages

Tenderness
Robert Cormier
Robert Cormier is a lifelong resident of Leominster, Massachusetts, a small city in the north-central part of the state. He and his wife, Connie, still live in the house where they raised their four children. He has been a newspaper reporter and columnist for 30 years. Cormier loves to travel, having visited nearly every US state and many countries around the world. He has written 14 books -- 13 of them fiction, plus a collection of his newspaper columns.

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Past Feature Reviews
A review by Lucy Dechene

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I would not recommend this book to anyone under 15, unless they are mature. It deals with obsession with a feeling of "tenderness" as experienced by a 15 year-old girl, Lori Cranston and an 18 year-old serial killer, Eric Poole. Lori comes from a very dysfunctional family, from whom she runs away whenever her mother's current boyfriend starts to show a sexual interest in her. She is in search of "tenderness," which she equates with sex. She often forms "fixations" on various males (rock stars, etc.).

Eric Poole is a chilling example of a typical psychotic serial killer: cold, calculating, unable to feel any emotion except "tenderness" when squeezing the life out of something. He starts with mice and pet canaries and then progresses to teenage girls. He eventually murders his parents (they were getting in the way of his lifestyle), is caught and sent to juvenile prison. The book opens when he is about to be released after turning 18. No one, except one policeman (Lt. Proctor), suspects he has murdered anyone but his parents. Lt. Proctor decides to watch Eric like a hawk after he is released, since he expects him to try to kill teenage girls again.

Lori enters Wickburg (a thinly disguised Fitchburg/Worcester, Massachusetts) just as Eric is released with a great deal of publicity. She recognizes him as someone who had "protected" her from a gang of boys some years earlier (ironically, immediately after he'd murdered another girl and was thinking of murdering her.) She becomes fixated on him, hides in his van, and gets involved in his life. For a while, it appears that she might actually turn Eric into something human and a reformed killer.

While the subject matter of the book involves sex and violence, they actually occur "off-stage." The focus of the book is on thoughts and feelings (or lack of feelings) and psychological states. It should definitely serve as a warning to any teenage girls who hitchhike and take people at face-value. It is a very well-written thriller. Older teens should like it very much.

Copyright © 1997 by Lucy Dechene

Lucy Dechene is professor of Mathematics at Fitchburg State College, Mass. and an organist, carillonneur and composer of classical music. Her research areas include chemical graph theory, vibrational modes of fullerenes and the Chronic Fatigue and Immune Dysfunction Syndrome.


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