It feels like forever since I read this book. For that reason, this review won’t have the usual tone. I remember more of the overall impression of this book than the minutia, so that’s what I’ll base this review on.
This is a book that fucks with you. It pulled me in because of the artwork. Dark and deeply creepy for a YA book, a co-worker and I discovered it while working at the library. We read it a couple weeks apart. The illustrations look like they were done in thick lead pencil, or maybe even charcoals. All heavy greys and blacks, with white used for contrast, and the occasional red for the monster’s eyes.
So, basically, this book is about a boy who uses the premise of a monster to cope with the looming death of his mother, who has terminal cancer. The monster claims that the boy called him, and that before the monster can leave, the boy must divulge his fear. His truth. They meet in the cover of dark, and the boy never really knows if their encounter was a dream or not.
This book reads like a fairy tale, but not in the fun way like Gaiman’s Stardust, or Goldman’s Princess Bride. No. This story reads like a poetic nightmare. The Brothers Grimm if they got a hold of your most private thoughts and spun them into tales that were part moral story and part horror story.
It’s haunting. Powerful. All those adjectives that never seem to actually adequately convey what the hell I’m trying to tell you.
I sobbed when it was over. I crumpled on the floor and wept into my dog’s fur, because I needed anything I could cling to. Now, I should add that I lost a very dear family member to cancer when I was about the main character’s age in this book. It was an immensely personal read for me. And it struck me like a battering ram at the gates. And when those gates opened a flood of latent pain, fear, and relief flowed from me. That horrible mix of emotions anyone feels when they lose someone to something as dreadful as cancer.
I felt it all again, thanks to this book.
I hated it. I hated those pages.I hated the boy. The monster. His family.I hated the artwork that bored its way into my imagination. I hated all of it for awakening things that I’d long considered dealt with.
And I loved it.
I fully intend to buy a copy. Preferably one like the ones the library owns. If you’re not aware, the book has been turned into a film, slated to come out in early 2017. I have my doubts, as I do with any adaptation, but the author wrote the script, and the trailer looks absolutely amazing, so I’ll pay the $13 to see it.
I’m sure it will break me all over again.
So, would I recommend this book? Hesitantly. I think, if you read it, and told me you didn’t like it, or that it didn’t impact you, we could no longer be friends. But, as your friend, I’m not really sure I want to inflict such pain on you in the first place.
But, if you want to be emotionally devastated for a few days, give it a go. It’s worth it, ultimately, because it’s a book that changes you. Like a few others in my life, this book reached into me, found something that was broken/missing and helped me address it. Some were more painful than others, and this one tops them all.
That’s all. There’s nothing else I can say about this book, other than it’s beautiful. And terrible. It’s crushing. Devastating. Like cauterizing a wound.
So, what scabs have you left to peel?