“The monster showed up at midnight. As they do.”
Through context clues, the reader realizes that thirteen-year-old Conor O’Malley is struggling with his mother’s deteriorating health and has alienated himself from his friends, family, teachers, and other classmates. Throughout the book, it becomes clear that Conor feels a tremendous amount of guilt and believes he deserves to be punished, but the reader does not find out “the truth” until the last few pages of the book. We are lead to believe that the monster has “come walking” in order to heal Conor’s mother, as the monster takes the form of a yew tree, which has incredible healing properties. However, to the reader it becomes clear that the monster has come to help Conor.
Conor’s mother has a form of cancer, and treatments just aren’t working anymore. She keeps a brave face for Conor, who is in denial and believes that she will get better, even as he notices her getting much worse. Ness’s story is about a boy who is forced to grow up a lot faster than other children his age. Conor is handling a grown-up situation as well as he knows how; he has been strong and holding on tightly to his mother and his belief that she will bounce back that it is so hard for him to realize that he has to let her go.
Ness’s book is an important read for any tween, teen, or young adult who is going through any kind of tough circumstance. And even if you aren’t going through a tough situation at the moment, this is an important book to read for everyone. Ness creates an intense, meaningful story complete with illustrations in 216 pages that can be read in one sitting. This book is incredibly significant and one that I would recommend to everyone.