Every once in awhile there comes a book that is extraordinary. This is one of those.
Then there is the opening: "The monster showed up just after midnight. As they do." Right away, I'm invested. The story takes off from there as a boy, whose home life is sad and on the brink of catastrophe, discovers his particular monster leaves calling cards and gets him in trouble.
The black-and-white illustrations by Jim Kay are gorgeous and disturbingly frightful. And, for me, they have the added bonus of being a form of the Green Man, a mythical being that fascinates me. (Snippet: "Every time the monster moved,Conor could hear the creak of wood, groaning and yawning...")
I might classify this as magical realism since the story is set in contemporary times and is about cancer, loss and love, not mythic realms.
The monster tells Conor stories, but they have endings he doesn't expect or like. The strongest element of this tale is the ways we hide the truth from ourselves, how we let our minds trick us, how we refuse to see, and what it costs to admit the truth when it is terrible and leaves us gutted. That is what the monster has come to help Conor face.
The final pages made me cry. And cry some more.