AUTHOR: PATRICK NESS
Details: From an original idea by Siobhan Dowd
Juvenile Fiction 12 - 14
“I never got to meet Siobhan Dowd. I only know her the way that most of the rest of you will – through her superb books. Four electric young adult novels, two published in her lifetime, two after her too-early death. If you haven’t read them, remedy that oversight immediately.
This would have been her fifth book. She had the characters, a premise and a beginning. What she didn’t have, unfortunately, was time.
When I was asked if I would consider turning her work into a book, I hesitated. What I wouldn’t do – what I couldn’t do – was writer a novel mimicking her voice. That would have been a disservice to her, to the reader, and most importantly to the story. I don’t think good writing can possibly work that way.
But the thing about good ideas is that they grow other ideas. Almost before I could help it, Siobhan’s ideas were suggesting new ones to me, and I began to feel that itch that every writer longs for: the itch to start getting the words down, the itch to tell a story.
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.” So that’s what I tried to do. Along the way I had only a single guideline: to write a book I think Siobhan would have liked. No other criteria could really matter.
And now it’s time to hand the baton on to you. Stories don’t end with the writers, however many started the race. Here’s what Siobhan and I came up with. So go. Run with it.
13 year old Conor has been having the nightmare ever since his mother first got sick. He’s been having the same nightmare every night, through all her treatments, through all hope come and gone. So when the monster shows up one night, just after midnight, Conor is not surprised. However, it isn’t the monster he has been expecting. This is a different kind of monster, one who insists on telling him three stories and warns Conor that once he has told all three, Conor will have to share his story. And although this monster doesn’t scare him, Conor is very afraid of the prospect of having to put to words that which he has not allowed himself to acknowledge for so long. No amount of keeping to himself and anger will protect Conor from having to face the truth. The monster will make him…
This is a wonderful, sad and very powerful story. A story about illness, loss, fear and frustration. The story of a young boy facing the worst thing that could happen to him and not really being able to acknowledge or deal with it. A story given extra poignancy by the fact that when Siobhan Dowd came up with the idea and the characters she herself must have known that she was losing her battle to live.
Patrick Ness has turned Dowd’s idea into a thrilling story that will captivate young teenagers and adults alike. He has turned it into a story that shows that there are different levels of grieving, different ways of coping with loss but only one way to find peace. In order to find peace you have to face the truth.
“The answer is that it does not matter what you think, the monster said, because your mind will contradict itself a hundred times each day. (…) Your mind will believe comforting lies while also knowing the painful truths that make those lies necessary. And your mind will punish you for believing both.”
“You do not write your life with words, the monster said. You write it with actions. What you think is not important. It is only important what you do.”