I’ve read Margo Lanagan’s highly praised and controversially commentated upon novel Tender Morsels. I’ve judged it (as part of the Aurealis Awards in 2008 – it was shortlisted for Best Fantasy Novel) and I’ve reviewed it.
Do I think it’s suitable for younger readers? No, I don’t.
Do I have it in my secondary school library? Yes, indeed I do.
Do I recommend it to students? Yes, I recommend it to mature readers (as young as Year 9, but with strong reading maturity, but more usually Year 10 and up).
Do I think it has some gross and squicky and confronting bits? Yes, BUT…
And this is a big BUT – I think the gross and squicky and confronting bits are completely in context for the story. Lanagan handles confronting and uncomfortable topics in a way that makes complete sense for the story, and, I’ll be honest here, I think that some of these issues need to be handled more in mainstream media. Incest, rape, assault are all real issues young people sadly have to deal with sometimes. At least in the fantasy world Lanagan has created, less worldy and capable readers have a bit of distance to step from the topic, as a fantasy, while mature readers of the book can take a lot more from it. Lanagan’s writing is, of course, superb, and she handles these issues in a powerful way. Nothing is done gratuitously, everything has a purpose for the story.
It’s my belief that those "journalists" and commentators who have condemned Tender Morsels for it’s "shocking" content either have not read the book themselves, or live in a happy fairy land were unicorns play harps and nothing bad happens to people. Sorry, but that’s not the real world, and while Tender Morsels isn’t the real world either, the themes examined certainly are real, and hit a chord with many readers.