A Monster Calls by Patrick NessA Monster Calls is a book I've heard nothing but positive things about since it's release in 2011, and I was lucky enough to be gifted a copy so I was very eager to read it...but, I knew I had to be in just the right mood to dive in considering the content. So, when the mood presented itself recently, I didn't hesitate for one second. Although I feel sure my heart won't soon recover from being broken into a million tiny pieces...
Inspired by Siobhan Dowd
Illustrated by Jim Kay
Published January 1st 2011 by Candlewick Press
The monster showed up 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...
This monster is something different, though. Something ancient, something wild. And it wants the most dangerous thing of all from Conor.
It wants the truth.
As many of you are no doubt aware, A Monster Calls is a book that deals with loss, death, letting go and saying goodbye. We meet our main character Conor, a young thirteen year old, whose mother is battling an aggressive form of cancer. On an evening just like any other, Conor is visited by a monster. A wild and terrifying monster who wants something from Conor: the truth. A truth that Conor does not want to face. In fact, Conor would rather face the monster's wrath than face up to this truth. So, the monster makes a deal with Conor - it will visit Conor again and tell him three stories. Once the stories are done, the monster will require the truth from Conor. Or else.
The emotional punch that this book packs is actually staggering. Within a short 215 pages, it takes us on a whirlwind of feelings: curiosity, amazement, wonder, fear, dread...and inevitably, sadness and pain. I felt myself tense at the unavoidable outcome at about 50 pages in, and the tension only continued to build, amidst my growing sadness and the tears splattering it's pages at various intervals. Conor doesn't want to face the possibility of losing his mother, but despite his denial, he still goes through the many stages of grief in loss in a poignant and thoroughly relatable way. I found myself hoping blindly along with him, despite the fact that I knew how the story had to end.
A Monster Calls is achingly beautiful in the way it's written, with stirring prose that hits you right in the feels. It's filled with gorgeous and haunting illustrations throughout that really set the tone perfectly. This was my first read by Patrick Ness, but it certainly won't be the last. The fact that he wrote this based on an idea by the late Siobhan Dowd - who tragically succumbed to cancer herself before completing this book - says a lot about Ness' ability as a writer in my mind.
I am beyond grateful to have finally read this little gem of a book that will surely stay with me for years to come. Though the characters are dealing with cancer specifically, A Monster Calls deals with loss in a universal sense, and the underlying themes of love and acceptance make this a book I feel that everyone should read. My heart may never recover - and I'm ok with that.
My Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars