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  • Written by Robert Cormier
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  • Tenderness
  • Written by Robert Cormier
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Written by Robert CormierAuthor Alerts:  Random House will alert you to new works by Robert Cormier

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On Sale: March 19, 2013
Pages: | ISBN: 978-0-385-72987-1
Published by : Delacorte Books for Young Readers RH Childrens Books
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ABOUT THE BOOK ABOUT THE BOOK
ABOUT THE AUTHOR ABOUT THE AUTHOR
PRAISE & AWARDS PRAISE & AWARDS
READER'S GUIDE READER'S GUIDE
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Synopsis|Excerpt

Synopsis

EIGHTEEN-YEAR-OLD ERIC HAS just been released from juvenile detention for murdering his mother and stepfather. Now he’s looking for some tenderness—tenderness he finds in caressing and killing beautiful girls. Fifteen-year-old Lori has run away from home again. Emotionally naive but sexually precocious, she is also looking for tenderness—tenderness she finds in Eric. Will Lori and Eric be each other’s salvation or destruction?

“Cormier is in top form in this chilling portrait of a serial murderer. . . . Gripping.”—School Library Journal, Starred

An ALA Top Ten Best Book for Young Adults

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.


From the Hardcover edition.
Robert Cormier

About Robert Cormier

Robert Cormier - Tenderness

Photo © James Patrick Langlands

“I can’t remember a time, really, when I haven’t been a writer. . . . Reading and writing were the two great escapes of my life and I suppose they still are.”—Robert Cormier

Robert Cormier is a Margaret A. Edwards Award winner, and his books repeatedly appear on the best books lists of the American Library Association, The New York Times, and School Library Journal.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR



Robert Cormier (pronounced kor-MEER) lived all his life in Leominster, Massachusetts, a small town in the north-central part of the state, where he grew up as part of a close, warm community of French Canadian immigrants and lived with his wife, Connie, also from Leominster, and where they raised their three daughters and one son—all adults now. They never saw a reason to leave. “There are lots of untold stories right here on Main Street,” Cormier once said.

A newspaper reporter and columnist for 30 years (working for the Worcester Telegram and Gazette and the Fitchburg Sentinel), Cormier was often inspired by news stories. What makes his works unique is his ability to make evil behavior understandable, though, of course, still evil. “I’m very much interested in intimidation,” he told an interviewer from School Library Journal. “And the way people manipulate other people. And the obvious abuse of authority.” All of these themes are evident in his young adult classic and best-known book, The Chocolate War. A 15-year-old fan of Cormier’s told him, “You always write from inside the person.”

Cormier traveled the world, from Australia (where he felt particularly thrilled by putting his hand in the Indian Ocean) and New Zealand to most of the countries in Europe, speaking at schools, colleges, and universities, and to teacher and librarian associations. He visited nearly every state in the nation. While Cormier loved to travel, he said many times that he also loved returning to his home in Leominster.

Cormier was a practicing Catholic and attended parochial school, where in seventh grade, one of his teachers discovered his ability to write. But Cormier had always wanted to be a writer: “I can’t remember a time when I wasn’t trying to get something down on paper.” His first poems were published in the Leominster Daily Enterprise, and his first professional publication occurred while he was a freshman at Fitchburg State College. His professor, Florence Conlon, sent his short story, without his knowledge, to The Sign, a national Catholic magazine. The story, titled “The Little Things That Count,” sold for $75.

Cormier’s first work as a writer was at radio station WTAG in Worcester, MA, where he wrote scripts and commercials from 1946 to 1948. In 1948, he began his award-winning career as a newspaperman with the Worcester Telegram, first in its Leominster office and later in its Fitchburg office. He wrote a weekly human-interest column, “A Story from the Country,” for that newspaper.

In 1955, Cormier joined the staff of the Fitchburg Sentinel, which later became the Fitchburg-Leominster Sentinel and Enterprise, as the city hall and political reporter. He later served as wire and associate editor and wrote a popular twice-weekly column under the pseudonym John Fitch IV. The column received the national K.R. Thomason Award in 1974 as the best human-interest column written that year. That same year, he was honored by the New England Associated Press Association for having written the best news story under pressure of deadline. He left newspaper work in 1978 to devote all his time to writing.

Robert Cormier’s first novel, Now and at the Hour, was published in 1960. Inspired by his father’s death, the novel drew critical acclaim and was featured by Time magazine for five weeks on its “Recommended Reading” list. It was followed in 1963 by A Little Raw on Monday Mornings and in 1965 by Take Me Where the Good Times Are, also critically acclaimed. The author was hailed by the Newark Advocate as being “in the first rank of American Catholic novelists.”

In 1974, Cormier published The Chocolate War, the novel that is still a bestseller. Instantly acclaimed, it was also the object of censorship attempts because of its uncompromising realism. In a front-page review in a special children’s issue of The New York Times Book Review, it was described as “masterfully structured and rich in theme,” and it went on to win countless awards and honors, was taught in schools and colleges throughout the world, and was translated into more than a dozen languages. I Am the Cheese followed in 1977 and After the First Death in 1979.

These three books established Cormier as a master of the young adult novel. In 1991, the Young Adult Services Division of the American Library Association presented him with the Margaret A. Edwards Award, citing the trio of books as “brilliantly crafted and troubling novels that have achieved the status of classics in young adult literature.”

In 1982, Cormier was honored by the National Council of Teachers of English and its Adolescent Literature Assembly (ALAN) for his “significant contribution to the field of adolescent literature” and for his “innovative creativity.”

8 Plus 1, an anthology of short stories that have appeared in such publications as the Saturday Evening Post, The Sign, and Redbook, was published in 1980. In later years, many of the stories in the collection, notably “The Moustache,” “President Cleveland, Where Are You?” and “Mine on Thursdays,” appeared in anthologies and school textbooks. The collection also received the World of Reading Readers’ Choice Award, sponsored by Silver Burdett & Ginn, especially notable because young readers voted for Cormier to receive the prize.

I Have Words to Spend, a collection of his newspaper and magazine columns, was published in 1991, assembled and edited by his wife, Connie.

Robert Cormier’s other novels include The Bumblebee Flies Anyway, 1983; Beyond the Chocolate War, 1985; Fade, 1988; Other Bells for Us to Ring, 1990; We All Fall Down, 1991; Tunes for Bears to Dance To, 1992; In the Middle of the Night, 1995; Tenderness, 1997; Heroes, 1998; and Frenchtown Summer, 1999. Frenchtown Summer won the Los Angeles Times Book Prize for Young Adult Fiction in April 2000. All his novels have won critical praise and honors.

In the Middle of the Night and Tenderness were short-listed for the Carnegie Medal in England, and Heroes received a “Highly Commended” citation for that same award, unique honors because the Carnegie Medal is traditionally awarded to a British book.

Cormier's novels have frequently come under attack by censorship groups because they are uncompromising in their depictions of the problems young people face each day in a turbulent world. Teachers and librarians have been quick to point out that his novels are eminently teachable, valuable, and moral. His novels are taught in hundreds of schools and in adolescent literature courses in colleges and universities.

Though many of his books are described as written for young adults, in fact people of all ages read and enjoy Cormier’s work. His themes of the ordinariness of evil and what happens when good people stand by and do nothing are treated seriously, and he never provides the easy comfort of a happy ending. Cormier’s gripping stories explore some of the darker corners of the human psyche, but always with a moral focus and a probing intelligence that compel readers to examine their own feelings and ethical beliefs.

In an interview, Cormier was asked if he had accomplished what he set out to do at the beginning of his writing career. He answered with characteristic humility: “Oh, yes. My dream was to be known as a writer and to be able to produce at least one book that would be read by people. That dream came true with the publication of my first novel–and all the rest has been a sweet bonus. All I’ve ever wanted to do, really, was to write.” His writing has left the world a legacy of wonderful books, a body of work that will endure.


PRAISE


BEYOND THE CHOCOLATE WAR
“Cormier is almost unique in his powerful integration of the personal, political, and moral.”—The New York Times Book Review


FADE
“Imagine what might happen if Holden Caulfield stepped into H. G. Wells’s The Invisible Man, and you’ll have an idea how good Fade is. . . . I was absolutely riveted.”—Stephen King


IN THE MIDDLE OF THE NIGHT
“Convincingly and enticingly complex.”—Starred, Kirkus Reviews

“One of the eeriest of Cormier's thrillers, this account of vengeance and obsession provides the brand of suspense that has earned him so many fans.”—Starred, Publishers Weekly

“Spectacular . . . unnerving and piercingly honest . . . it doesn’t end at the end.”—The New York Times Book Review

“From the very first page, readers will be caught up in the story.”—Booklist

“Superbly written, with characters well developed and a tight, fast-moving plot. . . . A must read.”—VOYA

“An intense and powerful exploration of the burdens of accusation and guilt.”—The Horn Book Magazine


HEROES
“Cormier is once again on top of his game. . . . His story will hold fans from first page to last.”—Starred, Publishers Weekly

“Powerful.”—Starred, VOYA

“[A] powerhouse novel . . . that will follow the reader long after the story has ended.”—Booklist

“Compelling . . . and thought-provoking.”—School Library Journal


OTHER BELLS FOR US TO RING
“Superbly crafted. . . . A provocative look at the meaning of belief.”—Starred, Kirkus Reviews


TENDERNESS
“Cormier is in top form in this chilling portrait of a serial murderer. . . . [A] gripping tale.”—Starred, School Library Journal

“A mesmerizing plunge into the mind of a psychopathic teen killer that is both deeply disturbing and utterly compelling.”—Focus Review, Booklist

“The novel has a wealth of depth and complexity . . . Cormier’s best yet.”—The Book Report

“Vivid characterizations. . . . Cormier performs literary magic by making us empathize with these two teenagers who live at society’s far edges.”—VOYA

“Suspenseful and chilling. . . . Vintage Cormier: short pithy sentences and bends in the text take the reader along startling paths.”—The Horn Book Magazine

Praise | Awards

Praise

*"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."
--Booklist

"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."
--Kirkus Reviews

"Rarely has Cormier's irony been darker...readers will stay on the edge of their seats."
-- Publishers Weekly


From the Hardcover edition.

Awards

WINNER 1998 ALA Best Books for Young Adults
Reader's Guide|About the Book|Author Biography|Discussion Questions

About the Book

The discussion topics which follow, along with the author biography and interview, are meant to aid you in your exploration of Tenderness. We hope that they will increase your enjoyment of the book by providing insights into theme and character, clarifying points in the plot that you may have found ambiguous or confusing, and leading you to discuss and analyze the larger psychological, literary, and theological aspects of the novel. The questions are designed to appeal to a variety of reading levels and tastes.

About the Guide

Eighteen-year-old Eric has just been released from juvenile detention for murdering his mother and stepfather. Now he's looking for tenderness--tenderness he finds in caressing and killing beautiful girls.

Fifteen-year-old Lori has run away from home again. Emotionally naive but sexually precocious, she is also looking for tenderness--tenderness she finds in Eric. Will Lori and Eric be each other's salvation or destruction? Told from their alternating points of view, this harrowing thriller speeds to its fateful conclusion with an irresistible force, and a final twist that will not be easily forgotten.

About the Author

Robert Cormier doesn't look like a man who writes novels of stunning impact about the monstrous and inexorable power of evil. A slight man with wispy gray hair and a crooked smile, his eyes gaze straight at you with kindly frankness from behind his big glasses. He was for many years a newspaperman specializing in human interest stories. Cormier and his wife Connie have lived all their lives in the little New England mill town of Leominster, Massachusetts, where he grew up as part of a close, warm community of French Canadian immigrants. His four children and many grandchildren live nearby and visit often. Cormier's eleven novels for young adults have won him the Margaret A. Edwards Award from the American Library Association, the ALAN Award from the National Council of Teachers of English, the California Young Reader Medal, and many places on almost every honor list in the field. His novel The Chocolate War is regarded as the leading masterwork of adolescent literature. Cormier travels and speaks extensively, and loves chocolate, the late night, and reading--especially horror.


From the Paperback edition.

Discussion Guides

1. The word "tenderness" has at least two kinds of meanings. Robert Cormier has suggested some of these in the two quotes which open the book: "To know the pain of too much tenderness" and "A part of the body that has been injured is often tender to the touch." How many meanings can you think of for the word "tenderness?" What things or actions could be said to be tender? Which of these imply the potential for pain?

2. Both Eric and Lori have a desperate need for tenderness, and both of them are driven by their need to acts beyond their control. How does the shape and degree of their need differ, in terms of giving or receiving tenderness? How does this difference affect the way they act out their needs? Does Cormier tell us about any circumstances in each of their past lives which might be the source of this need? Would any circumstances be enough to explain Eric's extreme pathology?

3. Cormier uses the first three chapters of the book to introduce us to Lori. What passages illustrate her naivete? Her innocent voluptuousness? Her goodhearted generosity? Her resourcefulness and independence? Her lack of conventional morality? What other good and bad qualities does Cormier see in her? In what way is her mother's "bad luck with men" a model for her? Later we learn that "Lori" is short for "Lorelei"--a name taken from the German legend of a Rhine maiden whose singing lured sailors to shipwreck on the rocks in the river. How is this an appropriate name for Lori? How is it not?

4. Lori's fixation on Throb is an example of our society's tendency to idolize celebrities, even when they are repulsive, like Throb, or evil, like Richard Ramirez, the Nightstalker. What celebrities do you admire? Why? To what lengths would you be willing to go to meet that person or to get their autograph? What do you think people are really looking for when they are fascinated with a famous person?

5. One of the most chilling passages in the book occurs on p. 29 when Eric remarks that kittens have "fragile bones as if they'd snap and break if you pressed too hard, caressed too hard. Which he did, of course, impossible to resist." Eric assumes that anyone would find the impulse to crush kittens as irresistible as he does. Have you ever wanted to hurt a helpless creature or person? What kept you from doing it? Or if you did do it, how did you feel afterwards? What are the elements missing in Eric's personality that keep him from having these controls?

6. In the first part of this book, Eric is released from the juvenile detention facility, even though he has admitted to two killings and is suspected of two others, because he has become eighteen and is no longer a minor. Do you think he should have been released? Should he have been executed for his parents' murders? As Eric knows, many states are now changing the law to make it possible to try juveniles as adults for adult crimes. Do you think this is right? Should children as young as five or six be tried as adults? At what age should people be required to assume responsibility for their actions?

7. Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley, author of Frankenstein, once said, "No man chooses evil because it is evil; he only mistakes it for happiness, the good he seeks." Does Eric consider himself evil? What does he tell himself about the cat-killing that makes it seem to him not only all right, but a good thing? Why does he need to justify his actions like this? How does this delusion of innocence allow him to go on without guilt to the much worse evil of serial murder?

8. The tired old detective whose life has become focused on catching a certain criminal is a familiar character in fiction and film, beginning with Javert in Victor Hugo's Les Miserables. Jake Proctor, obsessed with convicting Eric Poole for his murders, is a clear example of this literary type. Like Eric and Lori, he is driven by an overwhelming need. What has happened to Jake in the past that makes catching Eric so important to him? What would the meaning of this conviction be for him and what need would it satisfy? In what two ways is he ultimately disappointed?

9. When Eric discovers Lori in his van, his first impulse is to tell her to get out. What are some of the other places in the story where she could have escaped but didn't? What effect does this have on the reader? Why does Lori stay with Eric? Why does he want to keep her with him? How does this shift and change as their relationship develops?

10. As a boy, Robert Cormier looked forward to an afternoon at the movies every Saturday, and afterward he went home and told the plots to his mother. Much of his early imaginative life was rooted in those films, and traces of their characters and situations show up often in his novels. In Tenderness the jail scenes in particular are full of allusions to the gangster films of the 1930s: the mess hall riot, the secret bully, the Irish guard, etc. Can you find other characters and scenes in the book that remind you of old movies?

11. Robert Cormier's novels have often been called "cinematic" by critics, meaning that the action proceeds in short dramatic scenes by dialog rather than description. Do you think Tenderness would make a good movie? Describe the actors who would play the main parts and pick out five important scenes. Should the movie be X-rated or R-rated? What would make the difference between the two classifications? Which would make a more effective movie? Which would make a more popular movie? Which do you think would be closer to Cormier's intention?

12. This narrative is told from the point of view of three different people: Lori, Eric, and Jake. Lori's sections are told in first person, that is, in her own voice. The sections focusing on Eric and Jake are told in omniscient third person, that is, by an imaginary narrator who knows what they are thinking. Why does Cormier do this? Do you find this technique confusing or helpful in keeping track of the story? How would the story have been different if Eric spoke in first person?

13. Typically a novel is built around conflict, the suspense-creating tension that rises to a peak of excitement and is resolved at the climax of the story. In Tenderness there are not one, but three lines of conflict, with three different resolutions. What is the climactic scene for each of these conflicts and how do they resolve the tension: the question of whether Eric will kill Lori? Jake Proctor's stalking of Eric? The growing possibility of love between Eric and Lori?

14. How does the setting of the scene at the carnival contrast with what is going on with Eric and Lori? What kind of music would you put behind this scene? Why does Cormier have Lori ride the Ferris wheel, and not the carousel or the dodge-em cars? Lori urges Eric to go off with Maria, knowing what will happen. Why is her self-sacrifice for love both unselfish and self-serving? How is it admirable and horrifying at the same time? What is revealed about Maria from her expression and actions when the police arrive?

15. As Eric's humanity begins to break through under Lori's influence, a repressed memory of his mother surfaces: "He remembered dark nights, her long black hair enveloping him, her lips trailing across his flesh..." What does this reveal about his childhood? About his need to kill only dark-haired women? Does this new knowledge change your feelings about his murder of his mother?

16. Irony is defined as "an outcome opposite to what was, or might have been expected." There are multiple ironies in Lori's death by drowning and its outcome. Most obvious is that Eric wants desperately to save the life of the woman he has been planning to kill for most of the book. What other ironies can you think of--for Lori, for Eric, and for Jake?

17. At the end of the story, when Eric is in his cell awaiting execution, he cries for the first time in his life, remembering Lori's unconditional love. What do you feel toward him at this point? How have your feelings changed over the course of the book? How has Cormier built up our sympathy for this serial killer?

18. But in the last line Cormier says "the monster also cried." Jake has called Eric a monster many times, but Eric has always indignantly rejected the term. Why does he feel so strongly about this? In jail, he thinks "What did the old cop know about monsters?" What does this tell us about what Eric knows about monsters? Who, or what, is the monster that cries, and what does this imply about the darkness that is in Eric's psyche? How is this darkness transformed by the monster's tears?

19. In Robert Cormier's novels, the good that the author really endorses often appears only as a reverse image, the positive in the reader's mind in reaction to the negative on the page. For instance, Eric's "tender" killings are a hideous parody of love, but as negative examples what do they make us realize about the true qualities of tenderness and love? In the end, which do you think Cormier says is more powerful, Eric's boundless evil or Lori's selfless love?


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