Wednesday, July 02, 2014

Review: A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness

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Review: A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness
A Monster Calls
Patrick Ness
Genre: Magical Realism, MG
Publication date: August 27th 2013 (PB)
by Candlewick Press

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An unflinching, darkly funny, and deeply moving story of a boy, his seriously ill mother, and an unexpected monstrous visitor.

At seven minutes past midnight, thirteen-year-old Conor wakes to find a monster outside his bedroom window. But it isn't the monster Conor's been expecting-- he's been expecting the one from his nightmare, the nightmare he's had nearly every night since his mother started her treatments. The monster in his backyard is different. It's ancient. And wild. And it wants something from Conor. Something terrible and dangerous. It wants the truth. From the final idea of award-winning author Siobhan Dowd-- whose premature death from cancer prevented her from writing it herself-- Patrick Ness has spun a haunting and darkly funny novel of mischief, loss, and monsters both real and imagined.
-A copy was provided by Candlewick Press for review-

Why do I read these books? Wait, why do I love them? DO I LIKE PAIN!?!?

Before this book even began, with just the author’s note, I was already emotional to learn of the passing of Siobhan Dowd that inspired this novel. I’m so happy that Ness wrote it, and that it became such a well loved book. What a wonderful way to commemorate someone’s life work.

A Monster Calls is a masterpiece in itself, with its terribly poignant account of a young boy learning to deal with his mother’s battle with cancer. Being a mother myself, this is one of my worst fears – to leave my child motherless, filled with grief and pain and confusion. With that said, I truly and deeply connected with this story, with this young boy’s highly compelling narrative. Conor burrowed his way into my heart, and I just wanted to jump inside these pages and protect him from the impending hurt we all knew was coming. Nevertheless, this story is also magical in a fairy-tale kind of way. It’s full of imagination and wonder. A young boy dealing with loss has found someone/something that gives him an escape from his real life, even though it’s ultimately what helps him accept reality. That someone is their yew tree. At first a monster, then a friend, and sort of a mystery. This yew tree tells him stories, stories with deep meanings and important messages that he doesn’t even understand at first. It frustrates him, all the while making him see the real truths. I loved how many layers this story had, especially for an MG novel. It’s heartfelt and quite emotionally intense at times.

Inside these layers, we’ve also got family and friends. Grief is a powerful force, and many don’t know how to react when touched by it. Conor’s schoolmates, teachers, and family members are all walking on eggshells when he’s near, but this results in Conor feeling incredibly alone and isolated. Resentment and anger also make an appearance, and all these emotions are so deeply felt by the reader. No kid his age should have to go through what he’s had to ever since his mother was diagnosed. He had to grow up so fast. The relationships with father and grandmother are all painted very realistically as well. No family is perfect, but I was so happy that his grandmother was trying. She understands and forgives him for what he’s going through. It gives this book a little shred of hope; we know he’ll still have someone who loves him deeply after all is said and done.

This book has been out for a while, now. It’s gotten numerous rave reviews and high recommendations. There is not really much else I can add to this pile of admiration. It’s a book you simply have to read and digest, especially for book-masochists who love gut-wrenching reads like me!

5 Stars
5 Hot Espressos

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Canadian blogger, wife, mother, coffee lover, and sarcastic at heart! She has had a love for all things bookish since before Amazon and eReaders existed *le gasp*. You can also find her organizing tours and other fun things at Xpresso Book Tours.
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31 Responses to “Review: A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness”

  1. Amanda @ Book Badger

    Gah this book makes me excited. I know I’m getting it for Christmas, so it should be a wonderful read, emotional too. I tried Ness’ Chaos Walking and didn’t like it much, so this will be interesting.. Lovely review Giselle, glad it touched you like it did.

  2. Tammy@ Books, Bones & Buffy

    I love this too, and read it when it first came out. Although I’ve never seen that cover before, but I quite like it! This is still the only Patrick Ness I’ve read, but at some point I do want to try his other books.

    • Giselle

      Yeah this is the new cover that Candlewick published in paperback in 2013. They call in the “adult” cover. I hope you love it as much as I did! I hear his Chaos Walking series is really good, too!

  3. Amelia

    I have this book on my to-read pile but after reading your review I want to read it right this second. It sounds like a very emotional book that I will probably have to prepare myself for!

  4. Nick @ Nick's Book Blog

    This is such a gorgeous review, Giselle. I can really tell that you had a strong emotional reaction to it. It sounds like it’s a beautifully written story. I can’t imagine what Connor had to go through. I must check this book out!
    Lovely review!

  5. JL Bryan

    Wow, that sounds really sad. I don’t know if I could handle this book! I have a three-year-old son, so this sounds like a pretty intense read for me.

  6. Kristilyn (Reading in Winter)

    Yes! I’m so glad you loved this one. I read it not knowing anything about it, I was just going by all the rave reviews. I’m so glad I read it because it was amazing. I was bawling by the end. Such a good story!

  7. ShootingStarsMag

    I don’t know why I love these types of books either. I guess because they make you feel and empathize with others. I’ve always loved them though. This sounds amazing!

  8. Sarah P.

    I definitely love gut-wrenching reads and I have A Monster Calls right beside me in my bedside table begging to be read. I don’t quite understand why I keep putting it off but I feel like I have to be in a right state of mind before I read it. Wonderful review, Giselle! 🙂

  9. Laura Plus Books

    Oohh I’ve never seen this cover before! I’ve always heard really amazing things about this book but The Knife of Never Letting Go wasn’t my cup of tea so I’ve been pushing it back. I’m really tempting to pick this up though! It sounds amazing. Lovely review Giselle! 😀

  10. Rashika

    It’s the masochist in you, Giselle. We both know you’re one 😛

    I want to read this book so badly though. All my friends have loved it and sung it praises. Plus I saw the fancy illustrated copy in the book store and fell in love.

    I am so glad to hear you enjoyed this, Gee! 🙂

    Fantastic review as always!!

  11. Cait @ Notebook Sisters

    I absolutely loved this book. Patrick Ness is fast rising on authors-I-adore-list! I’ve only read 2 of his books so far, but ohhhh I’m continually impressed. I loved the illustrations in this one too. I have to confess, they were half the reason why it blew me away. But the ending? I nearly cried. I don’t cry in books. I DON’T EVER CRY.
    I also loved the grandma and how she was so stiff…but in the end tried.

  12. Faye D'Social Potato

    Awwww, Giselle. I feel you. I really, really feel you. I loved this book to bits and by 75% to the very end, I was a crying, sobbing, wailing mess. This was so beautiful, and I loved the message and everything in it. I think the ending made my knees weak because I definitely remember crawling on the floor crying LOL!

  13. Dea S.

    OMG! This is absolutely one of my favorites. Actually, all Patrick Ness books are quality. I think I’ve read it thrice since I got my copy two years ago and I’m thinking of reading it again after your review. It’s so beautiful and heartbreaking and the illustrations are glorious. Great review!

  14. Pili

    I hadn’t heard about this book before, which I guess it’s due to my usual refusal to add anything related to cancer that is not a technical book for work to my reading lists… but a middle grade book and with such an amazing review like this one… maybe I ought to give it a try and cry my eyes out with it!

  15. Amanda @ Late Nights with Good Books

    I really, really need to read this one! I bought a copy when it was on sale for my Kindle and everything…I guess I just haven’t felt masochistic enough? It sounds so emotionally draining, albeit beautiful. One of these days!
    I’m glad it was able to resonate so strongly with you! Lovely review, Giselle!

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