Robert Cormier was dead by the time I arrived at teen literature as an adult ... and he wasn't writing when I was a teenager myself. [Yes, I'm old.] Back when I was listening exclusively to "backlist" teen fiction, I listened to The Chocolate War, which I recognized as a pretty good novel; but I didn't like it enough (too much nastiness) to seek out any other titles. But when Tenderness showed up in a recent delivery, I thought I'd like to give him another go. This cover is not the cover the audiobook. (And what is this cover anyway? Is he wearing his heart on his sleeve? Even Amazon.com won't give me a large-size image ...)
Eric Poole is about to be released from the juvenile detention facility he has resided in for the past three years for the (judged justifiable) murder of his mother and stepfather. Eric has also murdered three young women, but the police haven't been able to link him to these crimes. He is planning to continue his search for similar girls with long, dark hair upon his release.
Lori Cranston is a 15-year-old runaway who has been sexually abused by one of her mother's boyfriends, and now uses her well-endowed "top" to obtain money and other favors from men. Lori gets "fixations" to kiss certain men, and she has run away to meet up with and kiss a rock star. On her journey, she sees TV footage covering the release of Eric Poole, and her fixation turns to him. She remembers seeing him as a 12-year-old, just as he was heading into the woods for a tryst with a victim. When Eric and Lori meet up, the inevitable happens, but not the way you think it will.
This book has two narrative perspectives: Lori's first person and a third person telling Eric's story. Alas, Recorded Books chose to have Jennifer Ikeda read both perspectives. And I believe I've mentioned at least once my personal difficulties with Ikeda's narrative style.
Unfortunately, I couldn't believe for one minute that Ikeda's whispery voice with its precise diction was that of a sexually provocative teenager (she used the same voice she used for two innocents of the same age in Enthusiasm). And when there was no relief from that voice when the third-person narrative came in, the audiobook just flopped for me. Eric's tale was told with the same calm serenity as Lori's. There was no sense of mounting tension that is the focus of this book; and truly, I got no sense of the complexity of the two teenagers: Both are looking for "tenderness" -- a human connection that isn't exploitative, that doesn't hurt. It's just they weren't given the skills to find this in a socially acceptable manner. They both should be chilling; instead they sounded so ordinary, so unthreatening.
I swear Stephen Fry is reading the "this is the end of disc 1" etc. on Recorded Book titles lately. Now that's a pleasure to listen to. (I am a bit tempted to revisit Harry Potter on audio and try to get the English versions via Interlibrary Loan ... but do I want to devote 120 odd hours to that? Probably not.)