The Weight of a Thousand Feathers

The Weight of a Thousand Feathers

The Weight of a Thousand Feathers
Brian Conaghan

Bloomsbury YA

ISBN 9781408871539

WINNER OF THE AN POST IRISH BOOK AWARDS TEEN & YOUNG ADULT BOOK OF THE YEAR 2018 LONGLISTED FOR THE CILIP CARNEGIE MEDAL 2019 Angry, stirring and tender, this is a bold, questioning exploration of the lengths to which we'll go for the people we love. From the Costa Children's Book Award winning author of When Mr Dog Bites and The Bombs That Brought Us Together. 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? And 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 agrees, he won't just be soothing her pain. He'll be helping to end it. Would he? Could he? Perfect for readers of Patrick Ness and Malorie Blackman.

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Reviews

The Weight of a Thousand Feathers5/5

The Weight of a Thousand Feathers

Brian Conaghan

Review

17 year old Bobby is a character you won't forget in a hurry. His mother has MS and is fast-deteriorating, his little brother, Danny, acts four years younger because of his learning difficulties. With no dad on the scene, Bobby cares for both. His best girl friend (not girlfriend), Bel, helps him out as best she can to take her mind of her own problems and the support group for young carers provides him with a lifeline - not to mention an introduction to the supercool, vintage Vespa-riding, drug-supplying American, Lou - who, in turn, provides the biggest plotshock ever seen in YA.

In lesser writing hands, this plot line could quickly descend into the self-pitying and maudlin. Not so with Conaghan. The humour here is not just dark but jet black, the bad taste jokes cracked by Danny's straight-talking mum providing laughter amid the (many) tears. As her condition worsens she asks the ultimate question of Bobby on her birthday, it's a huge ask - how far would you go for the one you love? There are no easy answers or happy endings here, just realistic ones.

The very best books are the hardest to review, and this is no exception. Conaghan has a proven track record in creating the kind of smart, funny, real and vulnerable male characters we need more of in YA, and Bobby is, without question, his best, most unforgettable yet. Emotionally punchy and deeply moving, this is immediate, believable, brave writing which makes for at times uncomfortable, but always worthwhile, reading.

Conaghan has squeezed so much into this book: assisted dying and drug use, learning needs, gay awakening, young carers, first love, friendship and family ties, not to mention poetry and brilliant music references. The result is exceptional.

I cried (a lot), I laughed through the tears, I gasped, I put the book down often to mentally regroup, I re-read entire chapters, I raved about it to anyone who would listen, I kept wondering and worrying about the characters for weeks after reading, I LOVED it.

This is my book of the year - even though it is only May. It really is that good. Tender by Eve Ainsworth is another authentic novel which centres on family, friendship and the pressures felt by teenage carers. This Raging Light by Estelle Laure sees the main character caring for her little sister when first dad then mum abandons them. For MG readers, The Light Jar by Lisa Thompson is a poignant mystery story which centres on Nate's efforts to support his mum through mental illness.&

The Weight of a Thousand Feathers is an outstanding resource for encouraging empathy with young carers who are an often hidden group in school. For this same reason, teachers and librarians need to be mindful of its readers and mediate where necessary. The Teacher Pack from Bloomsbury, ideal for PHSE and Citizenship, focuses on the role of the carer and provides reading group discussion questions, drama starters, character role play and research into MS: https://media.bloomsbury.com/rep/files/TWOATF_teacherpack_v2.pdf

368 pages / Ages 14+ / Reviewed by Eileen Armstrong, school librarian.

Reviewed by: Eileen Armstrong


The Weight of a Thousand Feathers5/5

The Weight of a Thousand Feathers

Brian Conaghan

Review

17 year old Bobby Seed has too much on his plate. Any time not spent at school doing A Levels is spent at home looking after his mother, who suffers from MS, and his younger brother Danny, who has his own needs.

When Bobby's school counsellor suggests he joins a young carers' support group, he is torn between the desire to have some time away from his responsibilities and the guilt at not being there for his family. He decides to give it a go - with his best friend Bel helping out at home while he's away.

And so he meets a group of scared and lost teens, hiding their fear behind a wall of cynicism. On top of everything else, Bobby finds himself falling for the group's American bad boy, Lou - he's never really had the luxury of time nor headspace to even think about romance before. But then his mother asks him to do something for her, and Bobby Seed is never the same again.

The Weight of a Thousand Feathers was an emotional and powerful read - not surprising given the topic. What was surprising was just how much humour there was in the book. A large part of how Bobby related to his Mum and to Bel was through humour - who would have thought that the last line of a book about teen carers and euthanasia would make me laugh out loud?!

Early on I was struck by the realisation that I am of a similar age to Bobby's mum - same taste in music, same cultural references - which helped crank up the empathy on my part

This book could be a powerful aid in an ethics class on euthanasia, but definitely one for older students: on top of some very upsetting interactions between Bobby and his mum, there are also a few scenes of drug taking. I would definitely recommend this book to older teens who like to keep a box of tissues handy when reading!

368 pages / Ages 14+ / Reviewed by Daniel Katz, school librarian.

Reviewed by: Daniel Katz


The Weight of a Thousand Feathers5/5

The Weight of a Thousand Feathers

Brian Conaghan

Review

How far would you go for someone you love? What would you do if they asked? When Bobby Seed's mum asks him the Impossible Question, how will he answer?

From the beautiful front cover to the very last word, this bold, irreverent and tender novel explores the struggles of Bobby Seed, young carer at the age of 17 to his mum who is terminally ill with MS.

Bobby has an understandably exhausting life, with school, exams and looking after his younger brother Danny. He begins to attend a support group and meets other young carers in similar situations. The cheesy activities that they have to do will leave you cringing with sympathy! He also meets Lou, a loose cannon with his own story to tell.

Bobby's mum is a wonderfully warm mother figure, even in her state of confinement within her own bed and body. She's caring, sarcastic, loves eighties films and nineties music. Her personality makes her fight all the more poignant and the question she asks Bobby all the more upsetting.

The relationship between Bobby, Danny and the ever-present best friend Bel are utterly believable with no word wasted. There is humour but not to the detriment of the novel. A sensitive, moving, honest and heart-breaking story that stays with you long after you finish it. This book could be used in many ways in schools either in a book club, as a class read or as part of a PHSE discussion. Get this book into as many hands as you can; it is a book that can be read be everyone.

368 pages / Ages 12+ / Reviewed by Lucy Georgeson, LRC Manager

Reviewed by: Lucy Georgeson