Monday, August 29, 2011

Review: A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness

At seven minutes past midnight, thirteen-year-old Conor wakes to find a monster outside his bedroom window. But it isn’t the monster Conor’s been expecting – he’s been expecting the one from his nightmare, the nightmare he’s had nearly every night since his mother started her treatments. The monster in his backyard is different. It’s ancient. And wild. And it wants something from Conor. Something terrible and dangerous. It wants the truth. From the final idea of award-winning author Siobhan Dowd – whose premature death from cancer prevented her from writing it herself – Patrick Ness has spun a haunting and darkly funny novel of mischief, loss, and monsters both real and imagined. (summary from Goodreads)

A Monster Calls is a stunning, beautiful, and heartbreaking story of love and loss that will stay with you forever.

I'm not sure I can fully express my thoughts about A Monster Calls. I simply want to say "I love it, read it now." From the moment I first heard about it, I knew I had to read it. It did not disappoint.

Every day Conor faces his mother battling cancer, and he feels he faces it alone. His father left them years earlier and is starting a new family; his grandm
other is unable to relate to him; and since his once best friend, Lily, told everyone at school about his mother, no one is sure how to treat him. Conor knows what a true nightmare - and monster - is, so when he's confronted by a monster he never expected, he's not scared. So, a deal is made. The monster will tell Conor three stories over time, and in return Conor will tell it a truth. But not just any truth - the truth. The truth that Conor can scarcely admit to himself let alone to anyone else.

I think Conor made this book for me. Of course I felt for him, but it was more that my connection to the story - what feelings I expressed, what I thought about what was happening or was going to happen - relied on Conor. I saw the world of A Monster Calls through his eyes. I felt no sympathy for Lily because Conor felt none; I was instantly wary of his grandmother because of how Conor felt about her. This isn't entirely unusual, but when I read a book, even if I feel immensely for a character or two and am completely hooked by the story, I still try to think things through and piece bits together. In this way I can see the two sides to the same story, as it were, or make a realisation before a character does. But that didn't happen so much here, at least not until a long while into the book. Because of this, A Monster Calls was a truly emotional rollercoaster, and it effected me in ways very few books have in the past.

Conor learns a lot through the course of the book. Each story the monster tells has an underlying message or lesson that Conor is unable to see at first, as he's so sure in what he already believes. Yet they help to make him - and me - view things a little differently. Conor is a great character, truly strong. I guarantee he'll stay with you long after you've turned the last page. His truth, when it is finally revealed, resonates. I spent much of my reading of A Monster Calls blinking back tears and swallowing around what felt like a large rock in my throat. Before the end I literally had to stop reading, put my head down, and just cry. Really, really cry. I can think of only one other book that has ever made me lose it that much. Honestly, I was still crying after I finished this one!

The writing and art of A Monster Calls work together to create an absolutely stunning and truly atmospheric piece of work. Ness uses words sparingly, and I'm amazed by just how much he is able to express with so little. The art compliments the story brilliantly, building on the impact of Ness's words. Black and white, and stark, it stands out sharply.
As I got lost in the story, so I did in it's art, often staring at each piece and taking it all in before continuing to read.

I cannot recommend A Monster Calls enough. Trust me, you need to experience it for yourself. My advice is to have tissues ready. A Monster Calls is beautiful, and it's words and art will cut right to your heart, leaving a lasting impression. As Ness says in his - also near tear-inducing - Author's Note..."So go. Run with it. Make trouble."


Publisher: Candlewick Press
Published date: 27 September 2011
Pages: 205
Format: e-Galley

Many thanks to Candlewick Press and NetGalley.