Tender is the story of best friends Catherine and James as they tackle university, relationships, and life in 90’s Dublin. Catherine struggles with her insurmountable feelings for James, becoming obsessive and neurotic – while James, dealing with a significant and life changing secret, withdraws into himself, fearful to share his truth with anyone else.
The first part of the book moved slowly for me, and I struggled to relate to Catherine, whose anxiety and obsession drove me bonkers. James was definitely fascinating, and I could certainly understand the draw that led to Catherine’s fixation. The second part of the book, however, was quite wonderful, and I found myself easily invested in the pages that followed. Exploring Dublin in this era was captivating, and watching the sometimes beautiful, oft times tragic relationship between Catherine and James easily enthralling.
Watching a character make so many unfortunate decisions and exercise such poor judgement was difficult. I didn’t want to look… but I couldn’t force myself to turn away. Even though I knew it was going to be painful and it absolutely gutted me what happened to both of these characters – believe it or not, Catherine especially. While some readers may struggle to feel compassion for Catherine, I couldn’t help but chalk up her choices to the carelessness and sometimes foolishness of youth. That awkward and annoying time when poor judgement was often times the only judgement. Catherine’s thought process and actions were at times cringe-worthy, but I was reminded of the quote: “Without mistakes, there are no lessons.”
The last few chapters were my favorite, and I appreciated such a realistic ending that gave perhaps not blissful resolution but definite closure. Tender is well-written, compelling, and a bit emotionally draining. I’m glad I stuck with this book; and while I know this would not be many of my YA/NA reader friends’ cup of tea, I believe fans of cultural/literary fiction would enjoy this Irish coming-of-age tale.
I received this book in exchange for my honest review.
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