This is not a real review, just a personal view of the book.
I read Margo Lanagan's novel Tender Morsels shortly after it first came out last year. I was simply blown away by it. It is going to be one of those powerful novels that I come back to over and over. The language is so exquisitely wrought, whether it is one of the horrific scenes (of which there are a number so be prepared but don't let them put you off. This is not gratuitous violence) or the sweet description of two unlikely lovers, that it coils inside you so you live the experiences with the characters. This can be confronting but Tender Morsels is in the tradition of stories like those collected by the Brothers Grimm before they were sanitised into froth and the darkness removed and so is often dark and challenging reading.
What confuses me is the outcry from some sources about the gritty reality of the writing. I've read reviews where it's described in ways that would make you think it is a blow by blow description of the terrible events that befall some of the characters. Where this comes from I do not understand. This is not a book with explicit descriptions of rape, incest or other sexual activity. We are left in no doubt as to what has happened but we do not actually have the mechanics given. The language used is so rich and skilfully worked that the reader is drawn into the experience and our imagination fills in the details. So effective is this that there were times when I had to stop reading for a while because it was too much to bear (no pun intended).
Much of the controversy has been because it is marketed as YA. Do I think this is a book for pre-teens? No. It deals with issues that most would not be able to identify with or understand. On the other hand, teens of both sexes have to learn about a world that is often not safe and where violence of all kinds does happen. More to the point they know it. Unless they are completely insulated from society - no news broadcasts, no television, no peers to talk to, no contact outside their own home - they know these things happen. We may prefer to think they don't and want to protect them but the real world is not a fluffy fairy tale and Tender Morsels involves the good and the bad that happens in the real world.
There is no happily ever after romantic ending in Tender Morsels and it is not a comfortable read but it is an eminently satisfying one. I recommend this novel highly. I am not surprised it received a Prinz Honor Award this year.