This past winter, Jane was held at knife point during an armed robbery, and the specter of that night still haunts her. A summer romance with one of the town bad boys—sexy Handel Davies, who takes her breath away and makes her feel like a bolder version of herself—seems like the universe’s way of paying her back.
But bad boys always have secrets—and Handel’s secret just might shatter Jane completely.
In a suspense novel that marries psychological thriller with summer romance, Donna Freitas keeps readers on the edge of their seats as they swoon. From Goodreads.
I read an article on the Salon several months back written by Donna Freitas, Sex: The Last Taboo of YA Literature? Not Anymore!, and it was such a brilliant piece, I had to get my hands on Freitas' latest novel, The Tenderness of Thieves. Although sex doesn't play as big a role in the story as I was expecting, The Tenderness of Thieves is a really interesting story.
Jane is still coming to terms with the armed robbery in February, during which she was held at knife point and her father was killed. One in a string of robberies in her town, Jane's was the last for months, but those involved have yet to be found, and she's struggling to move on. At the beginning of summer things start to look up for her, though, when one of the town's resident bad boys, Handel Davies, takes an interest in her. As she gets to know him, Jane realises he's not as bad as the reputation that comes with his surname implies, that he's actually a really nice guy who genuinely cares about her. Handel is the distraction she needs from the night that still haunts her, and makes her feel like a brand new Jane. But Handel has a secret darkness, a sadness he can't seem to shake, and what he's hiding from her might shake everything she's come to know as true.
I found The Tenderness of Thieves to be quite predictable in that I knew how this book was going to end, even before I ordered it, but knowing the outcome didn't spoil my enjoyment of the story. I thought it was a really sweet romance made more interesting by the fact that Jane is dealing with the terrible ordeal she has been through. She's still grieving her father's death, she's still coping with the fear she felt for her own life, and her solution is to push it all aside and not think about it. And then Handel takes an interest, hot and sexy and with a reputation, and Jane is drawn to him like a magnet. Part of his allure is his reputation, the danger of him because of the family he's from. Jane was the good girl who never believed anything like this could happen to her, but everything changed when the knife was held to her throat and her father was killed, and now being a little bold and reckless makes her feel something other than afraid. Finding out Handel isn't really much of a bad boy at all, but a really good guy doesn't make any difference, because Handel has now woken in Jane feelings and passion she's never felt before. Handel and Jane are just the cutest couple, and I loved reading their romantic moments.
There's also a great portrayal of friendship in The Tenderness of Thieves. Jane has and her four friends, Tammy, Bridget and Michaela, are a very close, tight knit group, despite their differences, and theirs is a beautiful friendship, full of love and support, even with the slight disagreements. Except for Michaela. Michaela is highly suspicious of Handel and doesn't trust him at all, so she is completely against Jane's relationship with him.
'Michaela sat down next to Tammy. "Tell what? What did I miss?"
"Sex, apparently." Tammy lowered her voice. "Jane's having sex. With Handel."
Michaela's eyes widened. "Tell me that's not true."
I closed my mouth, which had been hanging open. "It's not. It's absolutely not."
Michaela let out a sigh of relief. "Well, that's excellent news."
Michaela glared at Tammy. "I thought you said Jane knew her limits."
Tammy made a face. "I didn't say what those limits were. And I've come over to the pro-Handel camp. I thought you had, too. given that he knows your brother and all that."
"I was trying to be nice," Michaela said. "But just because Handel played hockey with my brother doesn't mean he gets to have sex with Jane!" (p226-227)
'I smirked at [Bridget]. "Who knew that you would date a golfer this summer."Rather than being a caring friend who shares her worries, she gets angry and judgemental, and tells Jane what she should and shouldn't do. The above quotes are just two examples of this, but there are so many! She doesn't offer an opinion, she dictates and expects to be obeyed. Thankfully Jane has her own mind, but I really didn't like Michaela. That's not how you treat a friend, no matter how much you dislike and distrust their boyfriend.
"Oh yeah?" She took off her sunglasses and smirked back. "Who knew that you'd be sleeping with Handel Davies every chance you got this summer."
My skin flushed hot. "Not every chance."
"Right," Michaela said, trying to sound bored about it.
"Like you should talk," I said to her. "Ms. I'd-rather-be-kissing-Hugh."
She turned a page in her magazine. "Maybe. But at least I'm not sleeping with him."
"Now you're judging me for having sex?"
This time, when Michaela went to turn her page, she snapped it so hard it tore in half. "Shit," she said under her breath. Then she looked at me. "I'm not judging you for having sex. That's really not it. I'm judging you for having sex with Handel." (p310)
There was another problem I had with the group of friends, but less to do with their friendship, and more to do with their worth depending on the attention they get from guys. Jane talks about how they always used to dream about being the girls the guys were after, and now they finally were, and talks about the power of walking down the beach in a bikini, hips swaying, the boys watching your every move. They're not necessarily obsessed with what boys think of them, but it's one of the main things they care about.
'"You're really good at that, B." Tammy was sincere. "The batting-your-eyelashes thing, I mean."
"You should try it," she said with a slight pout. "Boys love it. All it takes is a little practice." (p191-192)
'"Incoming," Tammy interrupted, looking off into the distance, toward the lifeguard chairs at the far end of the beach. Miles and company were headed toward us. "From the left."Again, just two examples of many like this. It made me uncomfortable how focused they were on how boys viewed them, like their self-worth depended on it. It's a really unhealthy idea for girls to have, and although probably quite realistic, sadly, I think it's a major flaw as the idea of guys' opinions of girls' bodies being important isn't challenged.
"Ooh," Bridget cried. "Make yourselves pretty for the boys!" (p193)
Although I was really interested in how Jane coped with the break in, I would have liked there to have been more to the psychological thriller side of the story, because I didn't feel that enough. Overall, The Tenderness of Thieves is a pretty enjoyable story with a sweet if troubled romance at it's heart.
Published: 26th May 2015
Publisher: Philomel Books
Donna Freitas' Website