THIS REVIEW CONTAINS SPOILERS……
Conor’s mum is dying of cancer, and his dad has moved to America. And every night since his mum became ill, Conor has been plagued by a nightmare he has never told anyone about. But there is one person, or rather, a monster, who knows about the nightmare.
The yew tree behind Conor’s house turns into a monster at night. It has done ever since the day his mum became ill. And now the treatments she is receiving aren’t making a difference. Conor’s mum is going to die, he knows that.
The yew tree monster tells Conor that he is going to tell him three tales, and then Conor will have to tell him a fourth, the truth of the nightmare.
The tales all involve important morals. They also all contradict each other. Whilst the stories are being told, the yew tree monster casts a mist around himself and Conor, and Conor is able to see the tree’s tales acted out around him, like a play at a theatre.
During the next few weeks, Conor’s mum’s condition worsens, and she is admitted to hospital. Conor is forced to go and stay with his grandmother, who he doesn’t like.
Eventually, the day comes for Conor to reveal the truth to the yew tree monster, the fourth tale. But of course, the monster already knows what the nightmare is about. The nightmare is played out around him, but this time he is part of it, he can interact and join in. As the nightmare progresses and becomes progressively sadder, Conor struggles to see the point of being shown the nightmare again, and especially of having to be a part of it. The monster tells him that if he wants to let go of his mother and let her die peacefully, he needs to tell her the truth, out loud, before she falls away from him forever without hearing the words he has to say, the truth.
At his mother’s death bed, Conor finally reveals the truth. He tells his mum that he is not ready for her to die, and she knows that he isn’t. But there is nothing the doctors or Conor can do about it, and so she dies peacefully, knowing that her beloved son wasn’t ready to let her go, and that he loved her.
This book was a heart warming, powerful and simple read. The fairytale elements in the book (the interaction between Conor and the yew tree monster) were written beautifully, and so engrossing to read.
Conor’s character was wonderful too. I really felt that I identified with what he was going through, even though he is a much younger person than myself.
I also really liked the tree monster as a character. His urge and drive to get Conor to accept the fact that he’s not ready to let his mum go is admirable and dealt with in a style that is thoroughly enjoyable to read.
This book was adapted from an idea by the late Siobhan Dowd, who sadly passed away before the book could be published. Patrick Ness wanted to share the story Siobhan had created and so he finished it for her. I think the book is what Siobhan wanted, it is a beacon to her, a shining example of how to write a truly fantastic story.
This is the first Patrick Ness book I have read, but I thoroughly loved it, and I look forward to reading more by him in the future.