Sunday, July 17, 2011

A Monster Calls - Patrick Ness

Title: A Monster Calls
Author: Patrick Ness (From an original idea by Siobhan Dowd)
Publisher: Walker Books, 2011 (UK, Hardcover)
Length: 215 pages
Genre: Young Adult; Realistic Fiction, Fantasy
Started: July 13, 2011
Finished: July 15, 2011

From the author's website:
The monster showed up just 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...

The monster in his back garden, though, this monster is something different. Something ancient, something wild. And it wants the most dangerous thing of all from Conor.

It wants the truth.

Costa Award winner Patrick Ness spins a tale from the final idea of much-loved Carnegie Medal winner Siobhan Dowd, whose premature death from cancer prevented her from writing it herself. Darkly mischievous and painfully funny, A Monster Calls is an extraordinarily moving novel of coming to terms with loss from two of our finest writers for young adults.

Published May 2011 in the UK, and September 2011 in the US.

This book's reputation precedes itself. It isn't even out yet in this continent and every review has been glowing. Plus, it's by Patrick Ness, whom I love, so this was a must buy for me; and I knew I couldn't wait until the domestic release in September, so my copy is the UK version. I was blown away by A Monster Calls, the hype is completely warranted. As is usual of Patrick Ness' work, it's brilliant, though the writing has a different kind of quality from his Chaos Walking Trilogy. It's a bit simpler and less post-modern, but in this case, less is more I think.

Conor is 13 years old, and his mother is undergoing cancer treatments. His dad lives in America with his new wife and family, so when he visits for the first time in years, in conjunction with his grandmother coming in to help, Conor knows things are going downhill. He gets bullied at school, he feels like his grandmother's ruining everything, plus he's struggling to deal with his feelings and grief about his mother's illness. He is visited one night by a creature made of a yew tree (think of the massive tree creatures from Lord of the Rings), who demands Conor's truth in return for three stories. Each of the stories the monster tells Conor, each one on a subsequent night, contain elements that relate to Conor's situation in real life, which make him think about the aspects of his grief. When the monster finally demands the truth from Conor, it forces him to come to terms with his deepest fears.

This is a book about grief and loss, and it's heavy duty. Not only have I been through grief in my personal life, but also in my classrooms, so this book hits hard, and I can guarantee that it will make you cry because it just gets everything right. It's wonderfully written, the monster weaves lessons that aren't really lessons in his stories which convey subtle truths to Conor to help him through the horrible mess that he's living in. The monster itself is an amazing element too: it's horrible but not nightmarish, and it actually has a sense of humour. The entire setup is so imaginative you can't help but be ensnared by the book and enchanted by it. This is a novel that everyone should read, especially since it deals with aspects that everyone faces in their life, plus the fact that it's all done so incredibly well.

One of the best I've read so far this year, truly brilliant. I'm probably not explaining things in a way that does the book justice, but trust me, just read it, it'll blow you away too.

Thoughts on the cover:
I love the illustrations that are peppered throughout the book, they add to the whole experience, especially since they're in black and white and there's so many different textures you can see in them. The cover is just ominous enough with the right amount of creepy to set the mood.

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