Ah Patrick Ness, the author who destroyed me at the beginning of 2015 with the Chaos Walking Trilogy (destroyed in the ‘good’ way), and now proceeds to destroy me again with this book. He is the king of emotionally destroying people. This is a really fantastic novel, it’s not that long, and just took me a day to read, but it really packs a punch. We learn in the author’s note that Ness was approached with the idea of turning the work of Siobhan Dowd into a book. Siobhan sadly died aged 47 before being able to write her fifth book. But she had the characters, a premise, and a beginning. This is where Ness comes in. Siobhan was posthumously won the Carnegie medal in 2009, this book also won the Cilip Carnegie Medal as well as a bunch of other awards, which it truly deserves.
What makes this book even better are its incredible illustrations by Jim Kay. They are so good, and add a whole new layer to the story. I love them.
The story is about a 13 year old boy who has to try to come to terms with his mother’s terminal cancer. As you can imagine, this isn’t a bright and cheery story. It is really clever in that Conor is guided by a monster who visits his ‘dreams’. The monster is an old yew tree, which tells him three stories, and expects Conor to tell him a story after that. All three of the stories that the yew tree tells Conor are fascinating in their ambiguity. Who is good, who is bad, what action should have been taken. But they lead nicely to get Conor to accept his mother’s fate, and more importantly his own reaction to it.
It’s beautifully written, and it is really harrowing. The school scenes and the destruction scene are perfect. Overall, I’m just so in awe of Ness and his ability to craft such an emotional story.