Robert Cormier wrote "Tenderness" in 2004; the novel is a psychological drama intended for young adults. The main characters are Eric and Lori, who each battle inner demons during their introduction and subsequent relationship. The author presents a scenario which finds two people at the end of life's rope who could be each other's salvation or destruction.
Eric is 18 when he is released from jail for killing his mother and stepfather; he finds solace for his crimes in the tender caressing and killing of young girls. Eric has not been rehabilitated from his killing tendencies; it is only a matter of time before he is caught again. Eric continues to live a promiscuous life, flirting with time in prison due to his methodical killing spree.
Lori is a 15-year-old girl who has run away from home many times. She meets Eric through her precocious sexual tendencies, but she affects Eric differently than many other young women he has met; Lori has home issues similar to the ones which drove Eric to kill the first time. Eric does not kill Lori, however, and they become fast friends and eventually romantically involved.
There is compassion between the two teens; however, it is unclear if Eric plans to keep up his relationship with Lori. Lori does not understand the level of danger she is in. The author does not indicate that Eric has stopped his killing spree with Lori; there is always the underlying chance that Lori's life will end at the hands of the man she has grown to trust.
Both characters have internal struggles pulling them towards each other. Through their similar backgrounds Eric and Lori find a common connection. Lori, however, is not murderous; Lori's psyche is slightly different than Eric's. Since Lori does not realize she is involved with a serial killer, she has fewer internal struggles than Eric. Lori needs to decide if she can face her parents again, while Eric must decide whether he will give in to the self-satisfaction of killing Lori or if he needs her because she can help him get better.
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