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