“The monster showed up after midnight. As they do.”
What a fantastic first line, right? I’ve spent a good thirty minutes staring at wordpress and wondering how I will be able to successfully put into words how much I loved this novel. There is something wonderfully poignant about it, real and authentic, painful and honest, and while I’m not sure I’ll be able to articulate it, I’ll try my hardest.
Thirteen-year-old Conor lives with his mother who is slowly losing a battle with cancer. He’s had nightmares since her treatments began, and when the monster arrives, Conor expects it to be the one from his dreams. But this monster is different. He is the ancient yew tree in Conor’s yard, come to life, and he wants to tell Conor three stories. And then, the monster wants Conor to tell a fourth; he wants the truth.
The three stories the monster tells read like fairy tales gone wrong, and Conor struggles to accept the darkness in them, much like he struggles to accept the darkness in his actual life. He is bullied at school, his grandmother is seemingly unsympathetic to his current situation, his father has disappeared to America to start a new family with a new wife. This is a novel full of heartbreaking but powerful moments. The more time Conor spends with the monster, the more he is able to be honest with himself and understand his own feelings in the wake of his mother’s illness. He is angry and lonely and wild and furious and maybe that is absolutely okay.
This novel is marketed as MG (I believe…I could be wrong), but it is one of those novels with such deeply moving undertones that I think it can touch almost any age group. And the illustrations! While Ness’s words alone are beautiful, the illustrations by Jim Kay are so strikingly perfect, it is almost like they came first and the words, second. Together, the mood is pitch-perfect.
This book is haunting, and moving, and full of honesty. I had to break out my tissues, but it was worth every tear shed.
Originally reviewed here