“Stories are wild creatures,” the monster said. “When you let them loose, who knows what havoc they might wreak?”
Thirteen-year-old Conor wakes up every night at exactly 12:07 a.m. to find a monster at his window. This monster has come to tell him exactly three stories, and by the end of the third story, it expects to hear a fourth from Conor himself.
But Conor believes this monster is a dream. It has appeared ever since his mother started treatment for her illness, but when reality starts to clash with fantasy, Conor must come to face the truth about himself.
***Genre: Young Adult, Middle grade, Fantasy
“Your mind will believe comforting lies while also knowing the painful truths that make those lies necessary. And your mind will punish you for believing both.”
Agghhh, I’m still really broken up about this book. It delivers one of the most moving yet original premises I’ve read in such a long time, and it made me ugly-cry on Christmas Eve–with my family right next to me! This book is about love, loss, and truth, and I cannot recommend it enough to those who haven’t read it yet.
So what’s so great about this book you ask? Well for one, it ripped my heart out; I’m a huge sucker for sad yet cathartic reads, and this book offered exactly that as it put twists on expectations following a boy whose mother has cancer. You think that this kid is taking his mother’s illness well, but you come to realize what turmoil is broiling inside his head, and the author did an amazing job unraveling this revelation.
Furthermore, this book discusses death in very unexpected ways. I’m ashamed to admit it, but I’ve become slightly desensitized to cancer and WWII stories as I’ve watched too many movies about them, so the fact that this book revolves around a young boy’s inability to admit the truth to himself gave me chills; the author endeavors to offer a wholly fresh window into how one might deal with the pain of losing someone and the unconscious wish that might build up as a result, and it blew me away.
Oh, and I adored the cautious yet wild, moody yet raw, illustrations. Jim Kay’s ink drawings (yes, the very guy who does the Harry Potter illustrated series) seeped into my soul as I was reading because they were so befitting the tone, and were the perfect visual embodiment of what this book was trying to convey, and this elevated the story for me.
Bottom line, you have to read this book. I won’t say that it didn’t have its flaws as the prose is slightly choppy (perhaps a stylistic thing) and the ending did leave me rather thirsty for an epilogue, but it’s otherwise a gem: this book is truly an original, and it’s one of the best middle-grade novels I’ve read since The Giver.
Bottom line: Gripping, insightful, imaginative!
I cannot convey to you how much I loved this book. The author offers such a digestible way to talk about death, and for a middle-grade slash YA novel, this story was astoundingly shrewd and sensitive about the uncomfortable truths about those suffering from illness, and it elevated the discussion to a whole new pyschological level.
In that, I cannot in good conscience give this book any less than 5 stars. The author blurs the line between realism and fantasy in such fearless ways while keeping the discussion about loss on a very human level, and it’s one of the most coherently realized gambles I’ve seen. My utmost respect and endorsement.
My rating: 5/5 frogs
***Note: By the way, this book was written by Patrick Ness, but inspired by another author called Siobhan Dowd. She herself passed away from cancer, but not before bequothing her idea to Ness, who said he simply wished to do her final story justice. It shows. 🙂
***Oh, and I highly recommend the movie as well. I’m generally not a fan of adaptations, but this one really captured the essence of this book beautifully.
***And just on a personal note, I’ve been on a roll this week! I recently started studying for the MCAT, and I knocked out the five hardest chapters of biochemistry in a matter of days. Studying six hours straight each day can really give one a euphoria rush…