I picked this book up a while ago because I loved Patrick Ness’ Chaos Walking trilogy. But it sat on my ‘to read’ pile for a while because every time I looked at it I couldn’t get past the idea that it was rather a depressing subject matter, and it looked kind of dark, and I don’t really want ‘dark’ at this time of year. But yesterday the sun came out, and it’s been requested by another reader so I figured I’d better pick it up. I’m so glad that I did.
It’s a fairly quick read, but by no means an easy one. Based on an original idea by Siobhan Dowd, who sadly died of cancer before she could write the story, Patrick Ness has taken this idea and produced a rather harrowing tale that leads the reader through a roller-coaster of emotions.
The story centres around Conor O’Malley, a teenage boy whose single mother has terminal cancer. He is alienated at school, singled out because of his mother’s illness. His grandmother means well but he never feels entirely comfortable with her, and his father lives in America with his new family. He begins to have nightmares involving a terrifying monster, but when a monster eventually turns up it’s a very different monster, with stories which are wild creatures with a life of their own.
It’s a beautifully written, poignant tale of grief and loss, made all the more symbolic by the fact that Siobhan planned this story while undergoing treatment for her own cancer. I would definitely recommend getting the illustrated book as those dark images contribute so much to this tale. And keep a box of tissues nearby!