Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!
"You're a good boy," Conor's mother tells him. "I
wish you didn't have to be quite so good" (page 17).
What does she mean by that? Why does Conor
have to be so good?
How does the monster describe itself to Conor?
Where does the monster come from? What does
it want? Do you think that the monster is real, or
is it a product of Conor's imagination? What does
Lily was once Conor's closest friend, but now he
can't forgive her. Why? Is he right to feel betrayed?
How do most people behave around Conor once
they learn about his mother's illness? What would
you have done in Lily's situation?
"Stories are wild creatures," the monster says.
"When you let them loose, who knows what havoc
they might wreak?" (page 51). What does the
monster mean by this? In what ways does the rest of
novel prove the monster's point?
Discuss the role that humor plays in this novel.
Where are the best comic moments? Describe the
monster's sense of humor. Would you enjoy the
"Sometimes people need to lie to themselves most
of all," the monster tells Conor (page 62). Is Conor
lying to himself about his mother's illness? Is his
mother lying to herself? What does each of them
need to believe? Why?
Look closely at the illustrations. How do they
capture the tone of the novel? How do they
express the range of Conor's emotions?
Who is the hero of the monster's first tale? Who
is the villain? How does the story keep surprising
Conor? What does Conor hope to learn from the
story? What does he actually learn?
Discuss Conor's relationship with his father.
What have they shared over the years? Why does
Conor want to live with his father now? Why
does his father say no?
In the monster's second tale, whose home is
destroyed? Why? What does the story inspire
Conor to do? Why does he enjoy doing it? How
does Conor's grandmother respond to his actions?
Conor's monster appears to him in the form of
a giant yew tree. What is the medicinal value of
the tree? How effective is it as a treatment for his
mother's illness? Why does she want to believe it
Harry, the school bully, looks straight into
Conor's eyes and says, "I no longer see you" (page
145). Why is this such a cruel thing to say? How
does Conor make himself impossible to miss?
Describe Conor's recurring nightmare. How does
it usually end? What changes when the monster
demands the truth? What is more painful to
Conor than the death of his mother? Why does
he need to be honest?
At the very end of the novel, what does Conor say
to his mother? Why must he say it? Why must
she hear it?
The authors' note explains that Patrick Ness
wrote this novel based on an idea from Siobhan
Dowd. Why was Patrick Ness initially reluctant
to take on the project? What persuaded him to
change his mind? Even though it's impossible
to know for sure, do you believe Siobhan Dowd
would have liked the finished book? Why or why
Unless otherwise stated, this discussion guide is reprinted with the permission of Candlewick Press.
Any page references refer to a USA edition of the book, usually the trade paperback version, and may vary in other editions.
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