- I am completely and utterly wrecked.
- Drop everything and read this. If it’s the only book you read this year, do it.
Have you ever read a book that just left you completely open to the world? Vulnerable? Heart-broken? This is one of those novels.
Based on an idea by Siobhan Dowd (and in memory of), Ness explores sickness and death, our own inner demons, and family and society in an almost poetic way. He leaves you raw, torn open, and suffering along with the main character, 13 year old Conor who is faced with his mother’s imminent death. As the boy copes with this menacing reality, a gigantic and ominous monster, disguised as a frightening tree, begins to visit him. Yet that monster is not the scariest thing he’s seen. His mother’s cancer is.
Throughout the story, it becomes obvious that the tree is so much more than a looming monster. It is a tree which may be able to heal his mom, a tree which is ample amounts stronger than Conor, a tree which has weathered time and survived even the harshest of storms, and a tree which can go from comforting to fearsome in a second. Most importantly though, the tree forces Conor to confront his ultimate fear of letting go and his guilty feelings of relief that would come with that. Ness created a beautiful juxtaposition between harsh reality and dream-like (nightmarish) fantasies accompanied by on-point illustrations by Jim Kay. He offers an avenue to cope with death in a peaceful manner and makes the reader take a good look at their own beliefs about death and coping with it.
As I said earlier, if you read one book this year, make it this one.