Author: Eve Ainsworth
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary
Publisher: Scholastic UK
Publication Date: March 1st 2018
Format: Paperback (298 pages)
Touching on mental health, family, friendship and the pressures that teenage carers face, as author Cat Clarke says, TENDER is “a compassionate, compelling and unflinching novel”. Marty and Daisy spend their lives pretending. Marty pretends his mum’s grip on reality isn’t slipping by the day. Daisy pretends her parents aren’t exhausting themselves while they look after her incurably ill brother. They both pretend they’re fine. But the thing about pretending is, at some point, it has to stop. And then what?
My Rating: ★★★★★
Tender is a touching story about two young carers and the trials of their difficult home lives. Eve Ainsworth perfectly contrasts these difficulties against the everyday ‘norm’ for other young people their age: the homework worries, boy trouble etc. Things like that just aren’t a big deal for Marty or Daisy, who have much more going on behind closed doors than others realise. But this is not a story of difficulty and gloom, there are plenty of light moments and some touching scenes between the two lead characters as they come to realise that they have finally found someone they can lean on. I was sobbing by the end of this book – some of the tears from distress and sorrow, but a lot of them from hope. Hope that other young carers will read this book and somehow feel less alone in the world.
I adored the characters and really enjoyed that this book was told from a dual POV. I particularly liked the fact that Eve Ainsworth chose two carers with completely different home lives. This perfectly demonstrated the complex world of young carers and it’s quite possible that some readers won’t have even realised what a young carer really is and who they can be.
Marty is known as a bit of a loner at his new school after rumours of what happened at his last school start to surface. Little do people know just what Marty is trying to hide from everyone: a mother who is becoming increasingly more ill with her mental health. I was desperate for Marty to finally ask for some help and support for himself but could also empathise with why he couldn’t. Alongside his ill mother, Marty is also dealing with some complex grief and taking on a whole lot of responsibility. The situation he is in is certainly not an easy one and I was really glad when he found Daisy.
Daisy’s situation is completely opposite to Marty’s. She lives with both of her loving parents and her younger brother. The difference being that her young brother is terminally ill and is going to die t some point, they just don’t know when. Daisy’s situation was absolutely heartbreaking for me and I cried multiple times whilst reading her chapters for reasons close to my heart. Daisy’s family face a completely different kind of challenge to Marty’s and it was so sad when Daisy was feeling that she couldn’t turn to her family as she didn’t want to burden them, but at the same time her friends can’t possibly understand.
Both Daisy and Marty feel stuck in their own little worlds and it was delightful to see them cautiously getting o know one another and breaking down their barriers bit by bit. I’d actually really love to see a second book about these characters just to see more about their friendship and relationship. I’d like to think that they are saving one another, in their own way. Although their circumstances may be very different, there is a unique mutual understanding between the two of just how it feels to be in their position. A position that most young people never have to think about, let alone face as a reality.
Tender is full of moments that made me gasp, made me cry but also made my heart lighten with hope. Seeing the group for Young Carers being represented as such a positive safe haven for them to go was really positive and I loved the range of people that were shown to be carers. I absolutely could not put this book down once I had started it. It is a compelling and emotional read that I would love to spread far and wide. Stories like this are important because more often than not they are forgotten.
I work with plenty of people who are young carers and they honestly astound me every day. I don’t think they are a group who get anywhere near enough praise and thought as others do and these young people are living in varied situations but have one thing in common: they have to be the adult in some capacity. I am so thankful to Eve Ainsworth for writing a book that focuses on this particular group of young people – this is definitely a book I recommend for teachers, anyone who works with young people/carers, school libraries and so on. This book can give you a glimpse into just why sometimes that piece of homework really isn’t a big deal. Thank you, Eve.
Have you read Tender? Is it on your TBR?
What are your favourite YA contemporaries about marginalised groups?