Patrick Ness is the author of the critically-acclaimed Chaos Walking trilogy. He has won numerous awards including the Guardian Children's Fiction Prize, the Booktrust Teenage Prize, the Costa Children's Book Award and the Carnegie Medal. He lives in London.
In his introduction to this profoundly moving, expertly crafted tale of unaccountable loss, Ness explains how he developed the story from a set of notes left by Siobhan Dowd, who died in 2007 before she had completed a first draft. "I felt-and feel-as if I've been handed a baton, like a particularly fine writer has given me her story and said, 'Go. Run with it. Make trouble.' " What Ness has produced is a singular masterpiece, exceptionally well-served by Kay's atmospheric and ominous illustrations. Conor O'Malley is 13. His mother is being treated for cancer; his father, Liam, has remarried and lives in America; and Conor is left in the care of a grandmother who cares more for her antique wall clock than her grandson. This grim existence is compounded by bullies at school who make fun of his mother's baldness, and an actual nightmare that wakes Conor, screaming, on a recurring basis. Then comes the monster-part human, part arboreal-a hulking yew tree that walks to his window just after midnight and tells three inscrutable parables, each of which disappoints Conor because the good guy is continually wronged. "Many things that are true feel like a cheat," the monster explains. In return for the monster's stories, Conor must tell his own, and the monster demands it be true, forcing Conor, a good boy, a dutiful son, to face up to his feelings: rage and, worse still, fear. If one point of writing is to leave something that transcends human existence, Ness has pulled a fast one on the Grim Reaper, finishing the story death kept Dowd from giving us. It is a story that not only does honor to her memory, it tackles the toughest of subjects by refusing to flinch, meeting the ugly truth about life head-on with compassion, bravery, and insight. Ages 12-up. (Sept.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
Gr 7 Up-Patrick Ness takes a tale inspired by the late Siobhan Dowd and turns it into a deeply moving and magical novel (Candlewick, 2011). Is 13-year-old Conor O'Malley imagining that the yew tree is thundering down the hill to tell him scary stories? Or are the pressures of his mother's cancer and bullying classmates distorting his perceptions? Despite his mother's rapid decline, Conor doesn't expect help from his divorced father now living in America or want his stern grandmother's assistance. The gruff, living nightmare appears when the clock says 12:07, usually in the dark of night, but once at school lunch. Sometimes destructive acts happen during these visits, but other times Conor encounters terrifying images of his mother slipping over a cliff. The boy keeps trying to sort through his fears, denial, and loneliness. When his mother starts on a last ditch treatment using medicine from yew trees, Conor wants to believe she will recover. The ultimately supportive monster helps Conor face the truth as the teen painfully lets go. Narrator Jason Isaacs expertly runs the emotional gamut from the powerful and vociferous yew tree monster to the tender weakness of Connor's dying mother. He solidly captures the mood swings of the angry, frightened young man. At the conclusion of the tale, an interview with Ness explores the novel's development. The bonus CD contains Jim Kay's pen-and-ink arwork that reflects the mood of the tale. This fine audiobook offers unvarnished truth wrapped in fluid prose and cushioned with fantasy. A highly recommended addition to public, middle, and high school libraries.-Barbara Wysocki, Cora J. Belden Library, Rocky Hill, CT (c) Copyright 2012. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.