The monster showed up just after midnight. As they do.
Every night Conor O’Malley has the nightmare. Every night. But tonight something is different. Tonight there is a new monster. A new nightmare. And Conor isn’t sure if this is a dream or not. But either way, this is the monster he was fearing. This monster, the yew tree, tells him that it will tell him three stories. And then Conor will tell the monster a story. A true story. And if he doesn’t, then the monster will eat him alive.
Conor is isolated and bullied at school. He and his friend Lily have had a falling out. His father lives in the US and rarely visits. He has nightmares. And his mother is sick.She is undergoing cancer treatments, and tells Conor that she will get better, but deep down Conor knows that may not be the truth. And he resents his grandmother’s present in his life, interfering when his mother is unwell, tired, or in hospital.This is a wonderfully told book. Incredibly sad. But incredibly beautiful as well. And the illustrations by Jim Kay are just perfect, and fit the story so well.
I really loved this book. The monster, the green man, or yew tree, however you see him, and the stories he tells are not at all what I expected, and yet are so well fitted, that after reading them there is no other story that would have worked.
I suppose in many ways the theme of this book is similar to the Chaos Walking series, in that it is all about the truth. Truths we hide from ourselves, and truths that other people hide from us. Sometimes to try and protect us. But without the truth, however terrible that may be, how can we figure out how to deal with anything. Along with this idea of the truth, is the one, that life isn’t fair, and it certainly isn’t simple. Another truth we learn while growing up.
The central plot, that of a child dealing with a parent’s illness, made me think of I kill giants, even before I had read this one. And of course both feature monsters as well. But they are very different books. And both work in their own way. I can’t really compare them, apart from to say that if you liked one then I’d recommend picking up the other as well.
This is a book you will want to own in hard copy. As much as I love my kindle, and think ereaders are fantastic, I think that the images just wouldn’t work so beautifully on a screen as they do on the page.