A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness
(original idea by Siobhan Dowd)
Candlewick Press, 240 pages
The monster showed up just after midnight. As they do. But it isn’t the monster Conor’s been expecting. He’s been expecting the one from his nightmare, the one he’s had nearly every night since his mother started her treatments, the one with the darkness and the wind and the screaming… The monster in his back garden, though, this monster is something different. Something ancient, something wild. And it wants the most dangerous thing of all from Conor. It wants the truth.
Costa Award winner Patrick Ness spins a tale from the final idea of much-loved Carnegie Medal winner Siobhan Dowd, whose premature death from cancer prevented her from writing it herself. Darkly mischievous and painfully funny, A Monster Calls is an extraordinarily moving novel of coming to terms with loss from two of our finest writers for young adults.
I wasn’t planning to read A Monster Calls soon, because I wanted to save it for my slump days. I heard so many good things about this, but I savored the fact that it was patiently waiting for me on my shelf. But last weekend, after my friend asked if I knew if this book is locally available, I had that urge to pick it up and read it, thinking it shouldn’t take me too long. And if my fellow bloggers were right and this would also make me cry, at least I can do it in the privacy of my own home, right?
It’s 12:07am. Our main character, Conor, wakes up from the nightmare, the one that’s been haunting him ever since his mother had a “talk” with him. He wakes up, thinking someone has called his name, but there was no one in sight, save for that yew tree by the churchyard on a hill near his house. When the yew tree turns out to be a monster, Conor finds himself unafraid, because there were far scarier monsters in his world. The monster is a wild, ancient monster who comes with four stories: three coming from him and the fourth coming from Conor, the truth that he has been hiding for so long.
A Monster Calls is simple, really. It may seem like a paranormal or fantasy book from its title and the blurb and the cover, but it’s really a contemporary novel at its core. I haven’t read any of Siobhan Dowd’s work, and I’ve only read two of Patrick Ness’, but I didn’t really have much doubt over how good this book would be. What surprised me, though, is how this book left me biting back the sobs as I finished it during breakfast on Sunday morning. Sure, The Knife of Never Letting Go made me shed some tears, but this! A Monster Calls had me sobbing. How my chest hurt so much with emotion, and how close it hit to my heart even if I am — thankfully — not in Conor’s position.
But I think that’s the thing. Anyone can easily be Conor. Anyone can easily be in his shoes, think his thoughts and find the same nightmare he wrestles with every night. But the thing is, not everyone can have “monsters” to tell us and help us face truths. I think this is why books like these are so important: in the absence of our own yew tree monster, we get this. We may not wake up with a monster calling our name, but we can always turn to a book like this and find important lessons that would give us strength to face some of the hardest parts of life.
Fans of Patrick Ness will undoubtedly love this book. I haven’t even read the entire Chaos Walking trilogy yet and I am in awe of his writing prowess. If you were turned off by the any one of his previous novels, I urge you to give him another chance and read A Monster Calls. Patrick Ness is an excellent storyteller, and if that is not enough to convince you, maybe the illustrations by Jim Kay will (and these illustrations make this book worth to own in print):
Suffice to say that this is one of my “This is why I read!” moments. Patrick Ness has successfully made a mess out of my heart once again. There’s a line in the book that perfectly fits what this book is:
“Stories are wild creatures…When you let them loose, who knows what havoc they might wreak?”
And what a havoc this story wreaked, my friends. Beautiful and powerful. I definitely recommend A Monster Calls.
My copy: hardbound, from Book Depository
Cover and blurb: Goodreads