The Weight of a Thousand Feathers. Written by Brian Conaghan.
This is the second book that I have read off the 2019 Carnegie Medal Longlist. The strange thing when you are reading from a list rather than choosing books for interest is that they have the ability to totally take you by surprise.
Once I had this book in my possession (borrowed from the local library) I still did not read the back of the book, merely launched myself into it.
So, with all of this in mind perhaps it is not surprising that I was absolutely totally blown away by this book.
The book started off simple enough, about a young man (17) who is looking after his brother an his mother who has MS. From the beginning I was drawn in, I liked the humor of the main character, and the nature of the story was interesting. I wanted to keep reading. However I was not sure exactly where it was going to go.
I read it quite quickly, over about four days. It was one of those books that I was able to enjoy when I picked it up, but it did not have a massive selling point which had me unable to put it down. However that all changed about half way through the story when the mother asks her son to do the unthinkable.
I essence, this is a book about euthanasia. What surprised me was that this is a book written for teenagers discussion a topic which is still not often discussed in any medium. While there are many other topics that were once taboo that are no longer, euthanasia is not one of them.
What I really liked about the book was the relationship between the brothers. The need to protect each other, and look out for each other. Also that each of them still worked on maintaining a relationship with the mother.
While I liked the inclusion of Pozitive as an outlet for the older brother, I felt that some of the relationship between Bobby and the friend was not needed. Especially since it was left with such a lack of conclusion.
I really liked the depth of these male characters. It is not often that we get the opportunity to see such strong and nurturing characters in adolescent fiction.
Oh my goodness! Just now – when loading the picture of the cover I saw that the feathers are actually the silhouettes of the people. That is so cool! I did think that the title was so apt, the idea that you are always happy to look after those you love, but the weight and burden of that is also difficult.
There was one quote that really stood out to me – stood out so much that I took a photo so I could remember. Bobby was talking about his mum and he said:
“I can imagine Mum flouncing around to these groups back in the day when she was a different person, rejoicing in an alternative universe: no kids, just herself, her friends, great songs and the thrill of youth; life’s blank canvas to splatter. Exactly the place where I’m at now I suppose.”
There are two things about this quote – one is that him thinking about his mum in this way highlights how far from the ordinary Bobby’s life is. It highlights that with his responsibilities he will never be like this. It is both what his mum has taken away from him and what she wants to give him back. However I also love that idea of life as a blank canvas to splatter to decorate or change the way that you want. What a cool idea to think that as a teenager you have this blank canvas to do with what you want.
Overall I would recommend this book. It was a tear jerker, it certainly deals with a tricky subject, but it well worth the read. Especially if you are looking for a book that deals with male characters.
Genre: Contemporary, Adolescent Fiction, Slice of Life, Teenage fiction