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The Weight of a Thousand Feathers by Brian Conaghan – Book Review

Synopsis

Bobby Seed has questions.

What’s another word for ‘thesaurus’? How can I tell Bel I want her as my girl friend, not my girlfriend? How much pain is mum in today? Has she taken her pills? And sometimes, secretly, Why us?

Bobby’s little brother Danny has questions too

Will Bobby let him have Rice Krispies for dinner? Can he stay up late on the computer! And why won’t Mum’s stupid illness just GO AWAY?

But it’s Mum’s question for Bobby that could turn everything on its head.

It’s the Big One. The Unthinkable One. If Bobby agreed, he won’t just be soothing her pain. He’ll be helping to end it.

Author

Brian Conaghan was born and raised in the Scottish town of Coatbridge but now lives in Dublin. He has a Master if Letters in Creative Writing from the University of Glasgow. For many years Brian worked as a teacher and taught in Scotland, Italy and Ireland. His first YA novel for Bloomsbury, When Mr Dog Bites, was shortlisted for the 2015 Carnegie Medal, and his second, The Bombs That Bought Us Together, won the 2016 Costa Children’s Book Award. We Come Apart, a verse novel co-authored with Carnegie Medal winner Sarah Crossan, won the 2018 UKLA Book Award, and his fourth novel, The Weight of a Thousand Feathers, won the 2018 Irish Book Award for Teen & Young Adult Book of the Year. Now Available in paperback.

@BrianConaghan

What I Thought

This is a fairly difficult review to write because I have quite conflicted thoughts about this book. It looks at a very controversial topic – assisted suicide/euthanasia – so it was always going to be an emotive read.

Bobby’s mum has Multiple Sclerosis (MS). This is a condition I am familiar with through my work and so this is perhaps where some of the difficulty I had with the book comes from. It’s like when my dad used to complain about London’s Burning because that wasn’t what real firefighting was like.

It’s not completely inaccurate of course, and everyone experiences MS in different ways, but this seemed like a overly sudden progression.

I really enjoyed the first half of the book. Bobby is 17 and classed as a young carer. His younger brother Danny also has undisclosed special needs so he looks after him too. Bobby’s teacher introduces him to a support group with other young people in the same situation. Much of this part of the book is about the connection he makes with the other people there. It reminds me a little of the group scenes in The Fault in Our Stars for that reason. There is some romance too. It was positive to see LGBT rep that wasn’t the main focus of the story too.

His mum asks a couple of big questions so don’t be fooled when the first isn’t the one indicated in the synopsis. My wish would have been a greater exploration about possible reasons for the first question.

School seems to drop off the radar for Bobby although it is his life outside that is the focus of this book.

My biggest difficulty I think is with how the euthanasia topic is handled and there are some quite shocking discussions and scenes around this. It definitely shows the need for a fuller discussion around this societally because there is a definite acknowledgement that young people should not have to be put in this situation.

And the ending was very abrupt. I don’t know if there are plans for a second book.

I did feel empathy towards Bobby and the scenes with his younger brother Danny were good. I liked their connection.

Personally I think I’m just maybe too close to this particular topic to read it completely as fiction.

Thanks to Ian and Bloomsbury for the gifted copy for the purposes of honest review.

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