I definitely could not have chosen a better book to kick off the new year! After eyeing this one for months, my wife surprised me with it for Christmas. I promised her that I would make this book my first review for 2017. Not only was this a quick read, it was also an emotionally rewarding journey brought to life by one of my new favorite writers in Patrick Ness. I first became familiar with him through a Doctor Who short story he penned for the fiftieth anniversary of the program. Some of you might be familiar with Ness from his television phenomenon Class. With the recent theatrical release of A Monster Calls, I have a strong feeling that Patrick Ness could become the next Neil Gaiman. He is nothing short of magnificent.
A Monster Calls tells the story of Conor, a young English boy who is struggling to care for his ailing mother who has been diagnosed with cancer. Besides having to take care of the house, as his parents are divorced and dad lives in America, Conor is also facing bullying at school as well as being treated differently by the other students and teachers who feel sorry for him. Also, Conor has a recurring nightmare that he refuses to discuss with anyone. One night, a tree-like monster arrives at his bedroom window. At first, Conor assumes the monster is just part of the same dream, but then he continues to find physical remains of the creature all over his room such as leaves and berries. This creature is not there to harm Conor, but rather to share three stories with him, one during each of its visits. In exchange, the monster expects Conor to tell him the fourth and final story, the hardest tale of all to tell. Although the stories initially don’t make sense to Conor, he slowly is starting to come to terms with a difficult truth. Saying anything more about the plot would ruin the experience. This is a magical book that you will most likely finish in one or two sittings.
I can’t praise this story enough, as I can literally find no fault with it. Everything about A Monster Calls is superb. Ness uses one of my favorite writing styles, able to convey great emotion with simple sentences. Ultimately, this is a great book about learning to deal with grief. In fact, I found myself thinking back about the grief I experienced during the last year I had with my mother. Although this story takes you into dark territory, it really is a book about finding the light and the hope. When you finish this book, you will want to hug your loved ones and to cherish every moment you have with them.
“Stories are the wildest things of all, the monster rumbled. Stories chase and bite and hunt.”
I loved all of the stories within this book. Another theme of A Monster Calls is that stories have power. The strongest stories of all are the real ones which we author within ourselves. Stories carry great weight, and often fiction can help us better understand and make sense of our own lives. Although marketed as a young adult novel, this book is meant for readers of all ages.
The true gift possessed by Patrick Ness is in his ability to write children well. His insights into the minds and hearts of the young is incredible, again only rivaled by Neil Gaiman in my opinion. I love the fairy-tale stories within the novel, very reminiscent of classic writers like the Brothers Grimm and Hans Christian Anderson. Jim Kay’s illustrations are fabulous and really enhance the writing. If you are going to read this book, do yourself a favor a grab the illustrated version. It’s worth it.
A Monster Calls was inspired from an idea by writer Siobhan Dowd, who sadly passed away from cancer before she could begin work on her story. Dowd dedicated her life to fighting for the rights of disadvantaged children. May this tribute to her memory honor her work.
“You do not write your life with words…You write it with actions. What you think is not important. It is only important what you do.”
Please share your thoughts on this book or this review. Comments are always welcome.