Author: Patrick Ness Series: Standalone Genre: Fiction Release Date: May 5, 2011 Book Length: 206 pages Publisher: Candlewick Press Review: 4/5
Conor has the same dream every night, ever since his mother first fell ill, ever since she started the treatments that don’t quite seem to be working. But tonight is different. Tonight, when he wakes, there’s a visitor at his window. It’s ancient, elemental, a force of nature. And it wants the most dangerous thing of all from Conor. It wants the truth.
“You do not write your life with words…You write it with actions. What you think is not important. It is only important what you do.”
I physically picked this book up at the library and read the first page 3 different times this year at minimum before setting it back on the shelf every time. I had seen praise for it around Goodreads, but I was never really compelled to keep reading so I always put it back. Eventually, I let curiosity get the best of me and decided to keep going and what a good decision that was.
This book is about a boy named Connor whose mother has cancer. Every night, Connor has a terrifying dream that wakes him up at the exact same time, and almost every night, he is visited by a monster that takes the form of a yew tree behind his house. Following Connor as he came to terms with his mother’s illness was very sad. On top of having to deal with that, he gets bullied quite a bit and feels like no one understands him; he needed a friend or some sort of outlet and I just wanted to be there to give him a hug and tell him that it was going to be okay. For a lot of the book, Connor has a really tough exterior that he paints on for the world—even going so far as sticking up for his bullies at one point. It was clear that he wasn’t even sad anymore, he was just numb, and I think that is so much worse than sadness.
I am shocked to type what I am about to say after having done this very thing many times before I finally read it all the way through, but this book was hard to put down. The monster kept promising Connor stories, and I was really interested to learn what the moral of them were. In addition, there was a lot of suspense built around what happened in the dream that kept waking him up every night, and it wasn’t until the end that you got to find that out. Although I felt extreme sadness about the situation with his mom, I got through most of it expecting not to cry. It’s safe to say that we can go ahead and add that to the list of things about this that I ended up being wrong about.
This book taught me to be thankful—thankful for health, family, friends, everything. Life is rarely fair or easy, and for Connor, it was neither, but the lessons the monster taught him about life, death, and learning to let go are things that I think readers of all ages can connect with and what makes this such a touching read.