Tenderling by Amy Cross is a 108-page short novel published in 2015 under the genre of horror. What makes this story particularly horrible is that the protagonist is a young female approximately ten years old. She didn’t ask to be the savior of her family but it seems that only she has a belief system that allows her to admit the existence of spirits. Her mother and father resist a huge amount of convincing evidence that they are under attack from the spirit world. The overall theme emphasizes the resistance of the adult world to change that challenges existing, long-held beliefs. Unlike many books of this genre, the language employed is comparatively “tame.” There is absolutely no sex and the imagery which illustrates the attacks of the spirits on the parents and Calley is neither gruesome nor gory. This is a safe yet still interesting book for the YA crowd. It is affordable at a download price of USD 0.99 or free through the Kindle Unlimited subscription service.
Calley and her parents haven’t been in the house for one day before Calley expresses her adamant desire to not live in the new place. She senses the presence of an unfriendly spirit, one that she can almost see but never does. When she turns quickly in the direction of where she is confident the spirit is standing, there is no one. But she can definitely hear noises and that is good enough for her, not good enough for her parents. During her first night in the house, her sleep is disturbed by the sound of a spirit moving outside her bedroom. Eventually, Calley determines that the spirit has entered the bedroom of her parents. It seems she is not the immediate target.
Calley’s dad is a work-at-home dad although he has to make occasional business trips. Her mom is very accommodating of Calley’s wishes and treats Calley as a curious, developing young person. As days progress, mom seems distracted This will develop to the point of an obsession with things unfamiliar to Calley and finally lead to a breakdown requiring hospitalization in a mental health facility. It seems to Calley her mom is obsessed but as Calley’s questions and readings progress, she is able to accept mom is possessed.
With mom out of the way in a hospital, the spirit focuses on dad. It is apparent to Calley that she, Calley, will be the final target. From day one, when Calley heard noises that her parents didn’t, Calley has been trying to find out the history of the house. Several of her school classmates hint that they know the story, but they won’t tell. An elderly neighbor of Calley’s, Joseph, knows the story but doesn’t want to tell Calley; he is afraid he will suggest to Calley things that will become a reality if Cally dwells upon them.
But Calley eventually manages to get the full story by piecing together parts from several sources. The previous tenants of the house had been the Madsen family. The parents were found dead; Mary Madsen had never been found. Local residents avoided the property, it had not been sold or rented for a long time. Now Calley’s parents have arrived. Her school classmates kidded her for the most part except for Josh, a classmate who had known and talked to Mary Madsen. She had even given Josh a journal shortly before her disappearance.
Calley determined it was up to her to save the family. The only way the spirit, known as a Tenderling, could be destroyed was if it were faced by someone who would address it by name. Calley felt confident in her ability to do this because she had found the name “Tenderling” carved in wood above her own bedroom door. Just to be safe, she carved the name in wood above the other doors in the house as well. Now she all had to do was provoke a face-to-face confrontation and pronounce the name.
Calley did that. It didn’t work. Now what? (This is where you download the book and read the rest of the story).
This is a fast paced book that I recommend to my students of English as a Second Language. Hopefully, the small number of pages will encourage them to read and discuss short novels in English.