I knew that I needed this book as soon as I saw the illustrations. I didn’t care what the story was about. I couldn’t pass up those pictures, and I still can’t believe I found such a pretty book in a used bookstore.
Luckily, the story is just as beautiful as the illustrations.
Thirteen-year-old Conor’s mother has cancer, and he’s struggling to cope with her illness and the changes it causes in his life. Then, a monster starts coming to his window at night. The monster tells Conor stories that are supposed to help him, but they confuse him instead. Conor doesn’t understand his complex feelings about his mother’s illness until he starts telling the monster stories of his own.
I seriously can’t come up with anything I didn’t like about this book. It’s a children’s/middlegrade book that doesn’t lie to its young readers. How awesome is that? It shows all the frustration, anger, sadness, and exhaustion of caring for a sick family member. It lets young people know that it’s normal to have less-than-positive thoughts about a difficult situation. You don’t have to pretend that everything is okay when you know it isn’t. It shows that life is complicated, and sometimes if you do everything exactly right, things can still go wrong. It’s refreshing to find a book that’s so honest. I wish this story had been around when I was a kid. Child-me needed it desperately.
The writing and the story are so good. Conor’s emotions are raw and realistic, but the story has a whimsical quality. It’s written like a modern-day fairytale, and it’s brilliant.
When I first read the synopsis of this book, I was worried that the monster would symbolize something cliché and stupidly obvious (such as cancer or grief), but it didn’t! The monster is more than a symbol. He’s an actual character with a strong personality and a lot of opinions.
I also love Conor’s reaction to the monster when they first meet. Conor isn’t scared because he’s seen scarier things in his life. His reaction is perfect. It lets the reader know so much about his character. This kid must have been through a lot to be unfazed by a house-sized monster randomly showing up at his window.
Another great character is Conor’s friend, Lily. Like all of the human characters in this book, she’s very realistic. She makes some mistakes, but she tries to fix them, and it’s really sweet.
I could keep gushing about this book forever, but I’m going to shut up before I give away spoilers. If it isn’t obvious, I think this story is amazing. It has some of the most interesting illustrations I’ve ever seen in a book, and it’s definitely a new favorite. For an adult, it’s a super-quick read, so go read it.