Review - Tender by Eve Ainsworth
Tender by Eve Ainsworth
I was sent a copy of this book by Scholastic UK at the request of the author, in exchange for a fair and honest review.
When you’re caring for somebody else, who’s left to look after you?
Marty and Daisy spend their lives pretending.
Marty pretends his mum’s grip on reality isn’t slipping by the day.
Daisy pretends she can cope with supporting her parents as they tend to her incurably sick brother.
They each have to be strong enough to shoulder their burdens. They can’t fall apart. They’re fine, thank you.
But the thing about pretending is: at some point, it has to stop.
And then what…?
Everything is alright.
These feel like such little lies at times, the kind of thing you say to be polite, or to avoid awkward or personal conversations. I know I use them, probably more than I should.
For Marty and Daisy, in Tender, however, they become a way of life.
Marty is sixteen years old, and caring for his mother through what I think is depression. She has days when she never leaves her bed and then manic phases. His dad is dead and his mother's boyfriend is a complete waste of space. He doesn't want help, he just wants the Social Services people and the school, to leave them alone, until his mum gets better. He hates going to school. He hates coming home.
Daisy initially looks like the complete opposite of Marty. Where he's a bad boy with an attitude and a history of trouble that no one wants to get close to, she likes school, does well and has friends there. Marty barely has enough money to eat and his clothes are falling apart. Daisy lives in a nice house in the posh end of town. But Daisy's problems are very similar to Marty's. Her young brother has muscular dystrophy and she knows that he isn't going to get better. Her mum is stressed and exhausted. Her dad is putting in extra hours at work, leading to more tensions at home. Daisy tries to get by as best as she can, tries not to add to their stresses, tries not to be a bother.
Tender is a heartbreaking book, and a very tough read. I cried a lot while I was reading it, though I did also laugh in places.
It is very beautifully written though. Eve really picks out what makes Marty and Daisy's situations so different, but also what connects them, their shared pain and their mutual understanding. The characters are very engaging and their relationship feels very natural and real, without ever straying into the cliched territory of the nice girl falling for the bad boy.
I feel like Tender is also a very important novel. It opened my eyes to the struggles of young carers, particularly around their reluctance to ask for help for themselves. It also presented the support available to these young people in a very positive light, from the carers' club where they can relax for a bit with peers and youth workers, to the intervention of the emergency services.
I highly recommend Tender, though brace yourself for an emotional journey before reading it.
I'm giving it four and a half moons.
Tender is published on 1st March 2018 by Scholastic.
Thank you to Scholastic UK for sending me a copy of Tender, and to Eve Ainsworth for arranging it.