What’s it all about?:
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.
What did I think?:
I don’t even know where to start with this review, A Monster Calls is one of those books that will take your breath away. Not only is the premise incredibly sad but it was an idea conceived by the author Siobhan Dowd who tragically passed away from cancer before she was able to write the story. Patrick Ness took the project on and combined with the beautiful illustrations by Jim Kay, it stands out as one of those rare and powerful books that touch something in your heart and remain with you forever. Our main character is a boy called Conor whose mother is beginning treatment for cancer, although the prognosis is unfortunately not good. While this is happening Conor is having terrible nightmares and problems at school including bullying. Then it seems that others at his school, including teachers aware of his mother’s illness don’t really know how to talk to him and wherever he goes he is conscious of their pitiful glances. If all this wasn’t more than enough for a young boy to deal with, his father has moved abroad building a different life for himself with his new wife and child and doesn’t seem to know how to interact or support Conor in his time of need. Furthermore his grandmother, who looks after him when his mum is having her treatment is a bit prickly and does not conform to the stereotype of a loving, spoiling gran so they also have a difficult relationship:
“He didn’t like the way she talked to him, like he was an employee under evaluation. An evaluation he was going to fail.”
Then the monster comes. Fashioned from an old yew tree in the front garden, it appears just after midnight (obviously) and attempts to terrify Conor. However it is rather taken aback when Conor refuses to be terrified, after all Conor has in his words “seen a lot worse,” and his fears run a lot deeper than an old creaking yew tree. Conor dismisses the visit as just a nightmare, but then nightmares don’t leave bits of themselves behind like leaves and wood, do they? When the monster returns, he tells Conor that he will visit him again and each time tell him a story, three in total and then he expects Conor to tell him a fourth – THE TRUTH.
I don’t want to say too much more about the plot of this book as one of the many beautiful things about it is discovering the secrets yourself. I just have to re-iterate how blown away I was by it. Patrick Ness has already established himself as one of my new favourite authors with The Knife Of Never Letting Go, but with A Monster Calls he cemented it for good. I really appreciated the dark humour that ran throughout the story that made the heart-breaking moments so bitter sweet and I finished the story feeling emotionally exhausted but exhilarated at the same time as I knew I had just finished something incredibly special, the likes of which are rarely seen in a generation. I must also urge anybody who hasn’t read it to plump for the illustrated version – Jim Kay’s drawings also add a little something extra to the story and are truly gorgeous. I think this book would also be a must-read for anybody who has lost someone they loved, or a child in the same position as Conor that risks losing a parent.
Would I recommend it?:
But of course!
Star rating (out of 5):