Summary of Robert Cormier's "Tenderness"

The story “Tenderness” is about two teenagers whose lives intersect. Eric Poole is the main character, a serial killer who has been convicted of killing his mother and stepfather. Lorelei (Lori) Cranston is a character obsessed with Eric. Jake Proctor is a detective who did not believe Eric’s story during the investigation of his parents’ murder. Maria Valdez (Senorita) is a character who meets Eric while he is in juvenile detention.

Eric Poole

Eric is a young man with the characteristics of a sociopathic. He tortures stray cats and his Aunt Phobe’s canary. Eric practices how to lure his murder victims by watching himself in the mirror. He looks for girls to murder that he wants to give tenderness to. Eric claims to murder his parents because they abused him. He broke his own arm with a hammer to convince investigators that the abuse was real.

Maria Valdez (Senorita)

Señorita is a beautiful Hispanic girl who has characteristics similar to Eric's murder victims. She plans to meet Eric once he is released from juvenile detention. Eric plans a road trip to meet her at a carnival. Señorita works with the police to entrap Eric. Lori alerts Eric to the trap that is planned for the meeting. His meeting is diverted by Lori, who is hiding in the back of his car.

Lorelei (Lori) Cranston

Lori is an overly developed 15-year-old girl. She frequently fends off advances from men. The latest approach is from her mother’s boyfriend Gary. Her mother does not care about her. Lori runs away and hides in the back of Eric's car. She meets him when he discovers her during his road trip to see Señorita. She reminds him of one of his murder victims. Eric tries to murder Lori, but cannot do it.

In the End

Eric and Lori go for a canoe ride. Lori falls overboard and drowns. She tries to grab Eric and take him with her, but fails. He is arrested for murdering her even though he did not. Jake Proctor knows the boy did not murder Lori, but he let Eric go to jail anyway for all the girls that he had murdered without punishment. Eric cries because of his loss for the first time in his jail cell.

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