It is difficult for me to review this book without spoiling it, because what I most want to discuss is the big reveal, something I predicted immediately upon reading the summary on the book jacket. What complicates this story for me and what accounts for my reaction to the ending isn't only because I could see the ending coming, but also because I have a strong reaction to those who actively withhold the truth from others. Please note that I am not referring to the narrator here; Jane is not an unreliable narrator in any way. She tells her story in first person past tense throughout the book, and she's very honest.
What I will tell you openly is this: I liked the book overall because of how it was written. The narration relates the protagonist's emotions and thoughts very well, ensuring that important moments and decisions are deeply felt. The title is perfect, the pacing is good, and the characters are clear. I will not be surprised if and when this book is made into a movie, because the story will translate easily to film. (If you're looking for a screenwriter, I'm available!)
I also want to give kudos to cover designer Danielle Calotta for giving the title text angles and energy that I think Saul Bass would appreciate, layered over an image which well-captures both the beach setting and the lonely, haunted girl. (Image attributed to Shutterstock; name of artist or piece unknown.) Those who like the sand between their toes will enjoy the many scenes that take place at the beach, and how Jane and her mother welcome the sand into their home.
Put The Tenderness of Thieves in the hands of those who like books by Sarah Dessen and Deb Caletti, and especially those who like Tara Altebrando (The Pursuit of Happiness, What Happens Here).
My favorite passages in this book include:
I was holding things together the best I could, leaning into my new visibility like it might prop me up. But it's dangerous when we let boys fix the broken parts within us. It makes us vulnerable. It scars us for life. - Page 5
A camera catching the split second when a girl suddenly becomes someone worth seeing. - Page 67
The beach, swimming, everything around me was magic. It could heal all things. Protect me from danger. - Page 100
"It's not your job to save anyone," she said. "Not even if you fall in love with them." - Page 185
"...because little girls should start out life with auspicious names so they could one day grow up to be young women who would make their own marks on the world." - Page 253
"...I imagined the possibility...a chameleon of a girl who morphed and shifted with each new significant experience, one of them tragic, certainly, but others surprising, even thrilling. I liked this thought, that I didn't have to be defined by tragedy, that though sadness and loss might be written onto my skin, there were other things that could be written over it..." - Page 280
Related posts at Bildungsroman:
Review: This Gorgeous Game by Donna Freitas
Review: Gold Medal Summer by Donna Freitas
Interview: Donna Freitas (2012)
Interview: Donna Freitas (2010)