Book Title: A Monster Calls
Author: Patrick Ness
Genre: Fantasy / Magic Realism
Summary: Conor has recurring nightmares of screaming and darkness, and wakes one night to find the yew tree outside his house has transformed into a monster summoned, it claims, by Conor. The monster visits Conor and tells him three stories in exchange for Conor’s own story of his nightmare. In between the monster’s visits, we witness Conor’s grief as his mother battles terminal cancer, the bullying and alienation to which he is subjected at school, and the struggling relationship between Conor and his grandmother.
Favourite Scene: The first story the monster tells and the perspectives he offers Conor. This novel is a story about grief and change as much as it is about the nature of story and understanding perspectives and the behaviours that result from this.
Favourite Character: The monster.
Review: I’ve been a big Patrick Ness fan since I read the Chaos Walking books (one of which I reviewed a while back). His talent as a writer is undeniable – and two Carnegie Medals don’t lie. I’ve had this book on my “to read” list for a while and eventually read it easily in a single sitting. I was left with a gaping ache that some books leave me with, an ache for the story and the characters, and an ache and desire to share the book with the world and make sure it is given the attention it deserves. Read it. Read it. Read it.
At its core, A Monster Calls is about terminal illness and grief and change and the horrid experiences that arise from all of this. Conor has to confront what it means when his mother fails to get better from the treatments, and what it means to grieve and mourn for someone. Furthermore, he has to acknowledge the changes that will take place – changes he cannot control. On top of this, there is the “special treatment” he keeps getting at school and at home which, rather than being comforting, further alienates him from others. The story is, in its own right, a brilliant concept and beautifully executed with Ness’ artistry as a storyteller and Jim Kay’s evocative illustrations.
And yes, you will need tissues.