17 Oct 2011

A Monster Calls

TITLE: A Monster Calls

AUTHOR: Patrick Ness


PAGES: 215 (Hardcover)

PUBLISHER: Candlewick

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I honestly have no idea what to say...anything I think of, anything I write down, just doesn't manage to convey what I felt when reading this book.

Conor’s nightmares began just after his mother began treatment for cancer, dragging his worst fears from the very depths of his mind and sending him into an inescapable world of pain. When a monster, more ancient and dangerous that anything he could have imagined, begins visiting at exactly 12.07am each night the line between dreams and reality becomes blurred. Is this monster real or merely a trick of his imagination? and why does it insist on telling him confusing stories whilst insisting that Conor must reveal his own tale: the nightmare?

Though A Monster Calls is a middle grade children’s book, it has undertones of sadness, loneliness, and adult qualities that make it a moving read for any audience. Whilst Conor must face his inner monsters more literally than some other characters would, it is done with such amazing storytelling and emotion that it never feels like just a tool in the overall plot. If anything, it is the plot, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Right from the very start Ness invokes feeling of compassion and tenderness for this boy who must grow up far beyond his time. The obvious reason is that yes, his mother has cancer, but other things are added to build up this well of sympathy. With a father who lives thousands of miles away with his new family, a grandmother who doesn’t understand him and classmates who make him feel invisible, it is impossible not to feel endearing of Conor. But even though he must shoulder these great burdens of anger and pain, he shows an immeasurable strength and defiant spirit that leaves a kindling of hope despite the situation.

I don’t think I have ever read anything like A Monster Calls. It’s an incredible book about grief, loss, love, and as I was reading I couldn’t stop the ache that grew in my heart. Even though you are aware of what is going to happen, and on some level so is Conor, it doesn’t stop the overwhelming wave of emotion that engulfs you as you read those last few pages.
This is a book that everyone should read, should take into their heart just as I did, even though I felt mine slowly breaking as I read each word. I can say with absolute certainty that no book published this year, this decade, perhaps ever, can achieve such emotionally heart-wrenching brilliance.

This book made me think, it made me cry, and it changed the way I see the word 'monster'. Because it wasn't a monster that came calling, it was the truth, and really, that's what this whole book was about.

A Monster Calls is a book about coming to terms with yourself and the devastating losses we sometimes face, it's about digging through the lies, the blinding emotions and the pain, and finding the truth.

Because, in the end, that's all that really matters.

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