I haven’t seen the film, but a number of my book blogging buddies have recommended this one, so I bought it. Would I enjoy reading it?
The monster showed up after midnight. As they do. But it isn’t the monster Conor’s been expecting. He’s been expecting the one from his nightmare, the one he’s had nearly every night since his mother started her treatments, the one with the darkness and the wind and the screaming… This monster is something different, though. Something ancient, something wild. And it wants the most dangerous thing of all from Conor. It wants the truth.
Oh yes, this book gripped me from the first page and wouldn’t let me go until the final page and I was weeping by the end. For starters, the writing is beautiful. The prose is perfectly judged between lyrically balanced descriptions, pin-sharp characterisation and a very good grasp of just how children behave when confronted with extreme stress over a long period of time. As an ex-primary school teacher, I thought the depiction of both Conor’s reaction and some of his classmates was realistic and apt.
The monster’s appearance is marvellous and I loved the interaction between Conor and his monster – and the stories he tells. For starters, Conor wasn’t the only one confounded at the stories the monster tells – and his reactions to the outcome. Having heard one or three folk/fairy tales in my time, I had a sense that I knew where the first story was going – and was completely wrong-footed by the monster’s judgement at the conclusion. Meanwhile, Conor’s mother is still struggling with a latest treatment – and he then has to contend with his grandma. She isn’t the cuddly, white-haired lady so popular in modern imagination – she wears tailored suits, is hopeless at cooking and works full-time. She also is clearly adrift when dealing with Conor as she hasn’t spent much time with him. I enjoyed the fact that as the story is told from Conor’s viewpoint, any adult reading the story will appreciate that she is under enormous stress, but most children – and certainly Conor – will probably miss the signs. Until a disastrous visit by the monster…
So do I have any quibbles? Well, given the mention of mobiles and other contemporary details, I don’t think this story is set in the past – and so my problem with this tale is that most schools these days would be far better equipped to deal with Conor’s situation. Nowadays there would be trained help available for teaching staff and all adults dealing with Conor and it’s highly likely the school would have a specific policy to deal with children undergoing a major family trauma – it happens more often than you might think. Conor would have some sort of counselling, probably be put in touch with other children coping with similar situations and have some time out of the classroom. He would also be asked how he would like to be treated. However, that isn’t a dealbreaker – there is so much about this story that blew me away and I very much recommend this one.