Sunday, November 8, 2009

Creature of the Night

By Kate Thompson

Ages 15-18

Bobby is a despicable human being…but the reader will still want to see him to find redemption and success. Therein lies the contradictory beauty of this brief novel by Kate Thompson. Thompson has created a story that offers a masterful juxtaposition of the story of a troubled teen and the fading mythology of fairies in Ireland.

14-year-old Bobby is on a one-way street that will inevitably end with him in jail or a grave. He lives with his volatile 28-year-old mother and his sensitive baby brother, Dennis. The novel begins as the three of them have just left Dublin to live in the country. Bobby’s mother claims that the move is to get him away from “bad influence friends,” but she also has demons she is trying to escape. Bobby is not pleased to leave the city. He is a part of his older cousin’s gang, and he loves everything they do: stealing cars, doing drugs, vandalizing…anything that defies authority. Life in the country is simpler: people trust one another, family is all-important, and people laugh more. But there is darkness below the surface. The cottage Bobby’s family rents has a mysterious history: the original couple who lived there supposedly had a changeling child. No one ever saw this girl, but people heard her shrieking in the night. It is commonly believed that the girl’s parents murdered her in the end; they were both put in prison. And now the man who previously rented the cottage has disappeared, leaving behind his car and all of his belongings. When Bobby’s family arrives they are encouraged to put out milk for the fairy folk, but Bobby and his mother believe that to be a silly superstition and they refuse. Bobby’s little brother, Dennis, begins to behave strangely: He puts out the milk his mother and brother refuse to put out, and he speaks of a little old woman who comes in through the dog door. Despite the eeriness of this claim, Bobby can’t be bothered to think about supernatural goings on; he is on a mission to hotwire the car left behind by the previous tenant and hightail it back to Dublin. But the people he thinks are waiting for him back in Dublin don’t really care whether or not he returns, and he discovers in this little community people who are willing to trust him and want to see him succeed despite himself. He discovers a love for something besides the debauchery that is pulling him toward the country. But will horror of the creature of the night keep Bobby from staying in a place where he has the opportunity for a real future? And who is the creature of the night?

This thin book doesn’t have in-your-face bone-chilling horror, nor does it offer an unrealistic portrayal of miraculous turnaround in Bobby’s character. What it does demonstrate is subtle old-world creepiness and real-life redemption of a broken person—not perfect, but full of hope. Slightly shivery, beautifully written, and incredibly insightful, The Creature of the Night will make readers hope for the best in people and will encourage them to continue to believe in fairies.

Discussion points: choices, folklore, the nature of grace

Caveats: language, drugs, violence, allusions to teen sex

Questions to get you started:

  1. Bobby is a very unlikable character. Despite that, did you enjoy the book? Do you need to like a character in order to like a book? Were there things about Bobby you liked? Were there things about Bobby you could relate to?

  1. This is a book of juxtapositions: new world/old world, nature/technology, country/city. Is Thompson saying one way of life is better than another?

  1. At the end of the book Bobby reveals a bit about his life and how he is doing. Do you find this ending believable? Is it a happy ending? Would you have preferred the book end another way?

  1. Who or what do you think “the creature of the night” is? Is it the little woman? And if so, who or what do you think she is? If you don’t think the title refers to her, who or what else could it refer to?

If you liked this book you might enjoy: The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson, Skellig by David Almond, The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman, Coraline by Neil Gaiman, Time of the Ghost by Diana Wynne Jones.

No comments:

Post a Comment