Genre: Young Adult/Children’s
Star Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
“The monster showed up just after midnight.”
At seven minutes past midnight, thirteen-year-old Conor wakes to find a monster outside his bedroom window. But it isn’t the monster Conor’s been expecting — he’s been expecting the one from his nightmare, the nightmare he’s had nearly every night since his mother started her treatments.
The monster in his backyard is different. It’s ancient. And wild. And it wants something from Conor. Something terrible and dangerous. It wants the truth.
From the final idea of award-winning author Siobhan Dowd — whose premature death from cancer prevented her from writing it herself — Patrick Ness has spun a haunting and darkly funny novel of mischief, loss, and monsters both real and imagined.
Before the novel begins, Patrick Ness leaves an author’s note, explaining the circumstances that led to him writing this book. As you’ll know from the above synopsis, the original idea was that of Siobhan Dowd, an author who I have sadly not read (but hope to in future!). With some books, I skip any kind of introduction and get straight into the story, but I’d recommend reading the author’s note, because it will only enhance your reading and enjoyment of the novel.
It took me a little while I really get into this book. Although I love Ness’ style of writing, and although the story is a great idea and is well executed, I didn’t feel myself moved or as engrossed by it as I thought I would be to begin with. It felt more like a children’s tale than a YA book. This feeling continued throughout, but as I got into it, the more I didn’t mind the children-ey feeling. The story suits that tone, because of the age of the main character Conor. So, even though this book is classed as both YA and children’s, my experience of it sways more in the direction of it reading like a children’s book – but I emphasise that this is no bad thing! It just means it took me a little longer to become engaged and absorbed into the story.
This book had tones of A Christmas Carol (a book I’ve never read, but a story pretty much everyone knows the plot of), with the monster playing the role of the three ghosts. It was nice to read such short tales within this story, each one with its own little clever twist. The twists are done in such a way as to make you smile, rather than gasp.
The more I read, the more I could relate. Conor’s mum has a terminal illness, and I have experience of having a parent with cancer, so for me there was an extra layer of emotion and understanding. But overall, this book has lots of lessons, contains enough emotion, and is written with wit, slight humor to make you smile, and most of all it tackles a really distressing situation without being too heartbreaking or devastating. It will have you rooting for Conor all the way through.
The only reason I’ve given this book 4 stars is because of the difficulty I had getting into it at the start.
For anyone who has already read this book or plans to read it soon, then you’ll be delighted to know that the film version is coming out this year (or very slightly into next year for those of us in the UK)! The screenplay is written by Patrick Ness, so promises to be as good as (if not better than) the book. Plus, the monster is voiced by Liam Neeson. Which is reason enough to go and see it even if you haven’t read the book or plan to.You can watch the trailer here.
“Stories are important, the monster said. They can be more important than anything. If they carry the truth.”
“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.”
“You do not write your life with words, the monster said. You write it with actions. What you think is not important. It is only important what you do.”
Link to the book on Goodreads: