Completed 10/16/2015, Reviewed 10/21/2015
I didn’t know what I was in for when I picked this book for one of my challenges. It’s a prize winning YA horror novel. When I got the book at the library and read the flap jacket synopsis, I realized I might be in for an emotional ride. The concept for the book was from Siobhan Dowd who passed away from cancer before she could write the book. It was developed into a novel by Patrick Ness. It’s about Conor, a boy whose mother has cancer. One night, a monster visits him. It’s not the monster from his recurring nightmares. This one doesn’t scare him. However, the monster makes Conor confront issues he does not want to face.
The book is what I would consider psychological horror. You question if the monster is real or in Conor’s mind. Of course, one would think it’s in his mind. Conor’s mother is dying of cancer, his father left the family, he hates his grandmother with whom he has to stay often, he’s bullied at school, and everyone else tiptoes around him, making him feel invisible. These are the sort of things that make you believe he’s creating the monster himself. But the monster leaves signs of its presence whenever it visits him. So is it real or not?
I didn’t quite care for several of the last few YA novels I read. They lacked what I called heart. There was little emotional depth; the characters were little more than cardboard youths. However, Conor had quite a depth to him. He could have just been angry, but has more to him than that, more sadness, more pathos, more frustration. I was completely pulled into his head, going through the emotions that he was experiencing. The adults were also a little deeper despite the short amount of time we have with them.
What really brings the book together is that it is heavily illustrated with black and white drawings. It’s not really a graphic novel, but the illustrations add emotionality to the story. They convey the fear, despair, terror and anger, perfectly complimenting the action and emotions in the text.
I give the book five out of five stars. The combination of dying mother, scary monster, childhood isolation, and fantastic drawings creates a deeply moving experience. If you read this book, it will come as no surprise that it’s won several awards and is almost always checked out of the library.