This was one of the titles that I had to read for a book group at a recent conference, and I enjoyed it immensely. It falls somewhere between gothic horror and fantasy, having elements of both in its plot. It is basically the story of a teenage boy, Conor, whose mother is dying of cancer, but neither want to acknowledge this painful fact. A monstrous tree outside Conor’s window comes to life and oddly enough tells Conor that it is there to help him find the truth in his life. The damage done by the monster becomes a metaphor for the rage Conor is experiencing over the helplessness he feels due to his situation. The novel is illustrated beautifully with black and white drawings that add to the drama, as the reader is drawn into Conor’s world.
The idea for the novel was originally conceived by the late writer Siobhan Dowd, but she died of cancer before it could be written. When asked by fellow writers, Patrick Ness agreed to write the story in her honor, and it is quite a fascinating tale.