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Tender Morsels

Book review by
Kate Pavao, Common Sense Media
Tender Morsels Book Poster Image
Intense, award-winning fairy tale for mature readers only.

Parents say

age 16+
Based on 5 reviews

Kids say

age 15+
Based on 5 reviews

A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

This controversial book lends itself to some great discussions about mature books for teens. See our "Families Can Talk About" section for some ideas.  Some readers may be interested in pursuing other retold fairy tales -- while other may be inspired to learn more about how abuse victims cope with traumatic events.

Positive Messages

The main characters ultimately learn to cope with the real world and the people in it, who can be both terrible and wonderful. 

Positive Role Models & Representations

The main character and her children may be inspirational to readers, for they do ultimately come back to the real world where, as it says in the book's description, "beauty and brutality lie side by side."


This book includes intense violence: A girl is repeatedly raped by her father and later gang raped by a group of teens. When those teens are grown, each is brutally sodomized in revenge. In other disturbingly violent scenes, a girl contemplates killing her newborn baby by bashing the baby's brains out against a tree and throwing her off a cliff, a man is mauled to death by a bear, and much more.


Lots of graphic material, beginning with the book's opening scene, which describes sex between a witch and a dwarf. The book also includes bestiality and a graphic depiction of bears mating while a girl watches. Also references to an erection, orgasm, masturbation, prostitution, etc.


Some, including "slut" and "feck."

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Some drinking and drunkenness, though certainly not glamorized in any way.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that this award-winning book has garnered criticism for its intense material, including a protagonist who is repeatedly raped by her father and gang raped by other teens. There is also sodomy, bestiality, and graphic depictions of a miscarriage, a mauling, and more. Yet this book has also earned a great deal of praise for its masterful writing. Mature readers who make it through will have plenty to think about, including whether any topic is ever off limits for children, teen, or adult readers.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Parent of a 11 and 13 year old Written bystarbox June 28, 2009

An adult book with more in common with Anais Nin than Grimm.

An okay book for adults that enjoy fantasy novels, but not for teens of any age. As a high school English teacher, I read a lot of YA and adult fiction and kee... Continue reading
Adult Written bymadonna February 6, 2009
Kid, 11 years old October 1, 2009
it is to nasty for to read and i very disgusting
Teen, 16 years old Written bygursimran November 11, 2009

What's the story?

This book is a mature retelling of the Snow-White and Rose-Red \ fairy tale. After being repeatedly raped by her father and gang-raped by \ local teens, Liga escapes -- with her baby daughter and another on the \ way -- to a magical world where she's safe and everything is perfect. \ But soon others from the real world find their way into hers, and then \ her younger daughter finds her way back to the real world, eventually \ forcing Liga and her older daughter to come back and learn to deal with \ reality.

Is it any good?

It's no wonder this book has earned so much attention, including both awards and sharp criticism: It's both an amazing work of literature and incredibly intense. In an interview with suite101.com, the author says that the book would be too much for adults who are feeling fragile ("You need to be feeling resilient to take on the first part, particularly," she said).

Still, mature readers up for a challenge will find a complex but expertly constructed novel that's highly emotional and thought provoking. Parents and teachers guiding older teen readers could talk to them about a wide variety of topics, from the psychology of survival to book censorship and more. Our discussion guide can get you started, or look at Random House's Teacher Guide for ideas about delving more deeply into this often dark book. 

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about this book's controversial content. When asked about this book, author Phillip Pullman told The Observer, "I don't think there should be areas that children's books can't deal with." Do you agree?

  • Are books judged more harshly than other media? Should they be, or do they deserve more slack?

  • Families may also like to look at all the different editions of the book and talk about which take seems the most appropriate given the material. Is there one that marks it most clearly for an older teen audience?

Book details

For kids who love challenging fare

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