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Parents' Guide to

Tender Morsels

By Kate Pavao, Common Sense Media Reviewer

age 17+

Intense, award-winning fairy tale for mature readers only.

Tender Morsels Poster Image

A Lot or a Little?

What you will—and won't—find in this book.

Community Reviews

age 16+

Based on 6 parent reviews

age 16+
Depending on who you are and what you like, Tender Morsels may end up being your favorite book or a just a book you wish you’d never picked up. It takes the fairy tale of “Snow White and Rose Red” and fleshes out the characters and the world it takes place in. A victim of repeated brutality, Liga, the teenage mother of two young daughters, is allowed to live in a tranquil, alternate reality created by a mysterious higher power. There, they live in prosperity, but their lives of peace are interrupted when an accident causes Liga’s world to rejoin with the real one. Tender Morsels is not really a YA novel in the traditional sense. A young adult novel focuses on teenage characters and their problems, which can cover adult topics, but will probably not discuss them in a graphic nature. The main problem is with the story’s extreme content. Liga is repeatedly raped and impregnated by her own father (who later makes her drink teas that induce miscarriages); after her father dies, she is gang raped by a group of boys from the nearby village. While Lanagan doesn’t describe the rapes in graphic detail (she prefers to either refer to the act in hindsight, or use the “fade to black” method), she does put a fair amount of detail in the miscarriage scenes. This happens within the first few chapters. But Lanagan’s novel is not shocking without reason. She uses Liga’s story as a method for exploring the fear of living in a brutal world, and the bravery one must show in order to survive it and live a fulfilling life. As one character says to Liga’s oldest daughter: “[Y]ou are a living creature, born to make a real life, however it cracks your heart. However sweet that other place was, it was not real. ... [Y]ou could not have stayed there forever and called yourself alive” (356-7). If you can make it past the first two chapters unfazed, then you should be able to finish the book (that is, if you can get past the novel’s stagnant middle section). Overall, an interesting read. I’m just not sure that it belongs in the Young Adult section. A 2009 Printz Honor Book. Recommended for Ages 16-Up.
age 16+

Well written, but iffy for younger-mid teens

I read the book when I was about 16, and it was definitely not easy to get through. I finished it because I wanted to know if there was a happy ending, and because I didn't want to leave off in the middle of the uneasy feeling. The book has a few sweet parts, but there are quite a few parts that deal with rape, molestation, and unpleasantness. The book does show the main character learning to move through life, despite her past (in contrast to her mother's decision to hide her girls away), and it shows a man who is kind to the main character and seeks to rescue her. Parents who are uncomfortable exposing their teens to material like may want to avoid this book. I definitely recommend that you read it first. This may be a good medium through which to ignite discussion of difficult topics, but only if the readers are old enough to handle the material.

Is It Any Good?

Our review:
Parents say (6 ):
Kids say (5 ):

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, 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. 

Book Details

  • Author: Margo Lanagan
  • Genre: Fantasy
  • Book type: Fiction
  • Publisher: Alfred A. Knopf
  • Publication date: October 1, 2008
  • Publisher's recommended age(s): 14 - 14
  • Number of pages: 436
  • Last updated: July 12, 2017

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