You’d think I would have had enough of A Monster Calls after I sung praises to it when I reviewed it, and then sang more praises to it after I saw the trailer. And truth be told, as beautiful as the book was, it’s really not a book that you’d want to reread immediately. Okay, I would reread it for the writing, but not really for the story, especially because I think it has that The Passion of the Christ movie1 effect: you only want to read it once, but it’s not the kind of book you’d read again for pleasure. Unless you’re looking for a good cry.
But that doesn’t stop me from pushing it to people, of course. And push I did, especially when I saw a copy in Fully Booked. Anyway, long story short, Aaron and I convinced Ariel to get this book (And I quote: “It’s Patrick Ness. Of course it’s auto-buy.”). Ariel caved in, and got so excited about it after2 that he roped me and other friends to read the book together. And since I’ve read the book already, I was the default discussion leader.
And so here I am again, reading the book for the second time, and this time, paying more attention to the details because I had to ask some questions. This time, though, I’m more prepared — I have tissues with me all the time. :P
Anyway, so I’m hosting the first blog-based Reading Buddies discussion in the Goodreads Filipino Group. Basically, we’d read the book together, the leader would ask some questions, and we’d answer it on our blogs and discuss further in the thread. I know there’s a lot of channels with this, but think of it this way: more people can participate, even those who are not a part of the group (this means you, whoever you are who is reading this).
For A Monster Calls, we divided the book into five parts, based on how the story goes. Since there are no chapter numbers, we just used chapter titles:
Part 1 – From A Monster Calls to Grandma
Part 2 – From The Wildness of Stories to Champ
Part 3 – From Americans Don’t Get Much Holidays to No Tale
Part 4 – From I No Longer See You to 100 Years
Part 5 – From What’s the Use of You to The Truth
Each part will have about 3-4 questions which we will answer on our blogs and I will round up here. The discussion will run during the month of October. If you haven’t read the book but would like to, you can join us by writing a post on your own blog, or just leaving a comment. If you do decide to write a post about it, you can leave a link to your blog on the widget below so we can drop by and read your answers, too. :)
So! After that long introduction, I’ve got the first set of questions and my answers under the cut below. Disclaimer: Some questions were taken from Candlewick’s discussion guide for the book. Slight spoiler warning for those who haven’t read the book yet. :) Mister Linky widget is waaay below, scroll down if you want to just leave a link.
Part 1 – From A Monster Calls to Grandma
The first part of the book is where we meet Conor O’Malley. It’s 12:07 and Conor is awake from the nightmare. Conor thought it was just the wind, until he sees a monster standing outside his window, taking the form of the yew tree, the one that stood on the graveyard attached to the church behind their house. The monster has come to get him, but Conor surprises him by saying he isn’t afraid of the monster. After all, he had bigger things to be afraid of.
Then we meet Conor’s mum, who is ill. She’s been sicker lately, and Conor is worried, but this worry turns to slight indignation when his mum tells him that his grandma is coming to stay with them for a while. Conor doesn’t like his grandma, and he feels that they can manage alone. After all, he believes his mum will get better.
Conor goes to school, and we find out that he is being bullied by his schoolmate, Harry. Ever since news about Conor’s mum spread in his school, people have been treating him differently, and he didn’t like it. But not as much as he didn’t like his old friend Lily anymore, since he thinks it was her fault that everyone’s acting that way. If Lily hadn’t opened her big mouth about Conor’s situation at home, then maybe, things would still have been normal.
1. “You’re a good boy,” Conor’s mother tells him. “I wish you didn’t have to be quite so good.” (p. 17) What do you think she means by that?
I think Conor’s mother wanted to see him handle it the way people his age should handle it. Conor’s grown up too much in the past year (?) that his mother’s been ill. While I think she appreciates his maturity and his effort not to make things hard for her, I think she’s also wishes for him to be angry, to cry, to act out. I think, as his mother, she still wants to take care of him and his sudden maturity is robbing her of her place as his mother.
2. Lily was once Conor’s closest friend but now he can’t forgive her. Why? Is he right to feel betrayed?
Lily and her mother were close to Conor’s family, so they knew of Conor’s mother’s illness first. I think Lily was also just afraid for Conor and she didn’t know what to do, so she ends up telling her friends about their situation. I think Lily meant well, and she really wanted to be there for Conor. Conor, on the other hand, felt that she should not have interfered. This goes to show that even the best intentions don’t mean a thing for people who are hurting and are afraid. Conor didn’t want anyone’s pity, and he feels that it was Lily’s fault that everyone is treating him differently. As for if he’s right to feel betrayed…well, I think everyone who’s in Conor’s place will feel betrayed, especially after people’s treatment of him changed. I’m not saying it’s right, but it’s unavoidable. Also, given their ages (12-13), I think anger would be their first response to something like this.
3. The monster talked about 4 stories, 3 from him and one from Conor. The one from Conor should be the truth. What do you think is this truth? (Feel free to speculate :D To those who’ve read this already, you can write what you first thought this truth was.)
When I first read the book, I had no idea what the fourth story / truth was. I can’t even remember what I thought back then. Reading it again, though, and assuming I didn’t know anything, I was thought the truth was this: Conor’s deepest desire is to see his mother well, but he knows deep down inside that she won’t get better and he will lose her soon.
- Hold your horses! I’m not saying that this book is religious or I am comparing the story to Jesus’ and all that. I am merely using the movie as an analogy. Because I really liked that movie, but I cannot, for the life of me, ask my friends to watch it with me again because it hurts to watch it. [↩]
- This might be my fault, with all the “I really think you will like this!” I said to him. [↩]