A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Summary: The monster showed up after midnight. As they do.
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.
Wow. This is the first time that I've been able to tag something as being rated five stars since I started this blog. That's kind of an awesome way to start the year! And it's okay, really... I wanted to start the year by reading a book that would make me cry, honest!
This is a quick read, but that doesn't lessen its impact. Part magic, part contemporary, this book surprised me with the intense emotions it evoked, and I was pretty much engrossed from the moment that I started reading.
On the surface this book seems like it would be simplistic, the kind of story that explains a certain moral in an easy to understand way, a book to read and then set aside and not think about much after that point. I picked this up on a whim and wasn't quite sure what I was expecting from it, other than a quick read and what I assumed would be a sweet story given the recommendation that I'd seen for it over on Youtube.
In reality it was so much more than that. This is an extremely well written book, one that takes us into the head of a thirteen year old struggling with a world that suddenly isn't fair any more. His mother is sick, everyone at school is treating him differently including his best friend and all his teachers, his grandmother is barging in where she's not needed, and his father lives across the ocean instead of being there with him.
Into all of this comes the monster, shaped from bark and leaves, a figure that should frighten Conor, but doesn't. He has bigger things on his mind, and no time to be frightened. The only thing he's interested in is if the monster can help his mother get better. That has to be why it's there, right?
And so the story unfolds, a story that turns out to be moving, somewhat eerie but lyrical, probably one of the best explorations I've read of what it means to be young and dealing with grief and love and fear and healing. It touches on friendship and family and right and wrong and fairness, and how stupid and simple those ideas can seem when you're struggling to deal with the reality of the world we live in, and the frailty of the human body.
The writing is simple enough that it will appeal and work for younger readers, but also deep enough that it was very moving for me as an adult, and the concepts here are far more complex than what you might expect going into it. It is extremely difficult to take on a topic like this without being too preachy or too edgy or even too smarmy, but this book finds the right balance and keeps it throughout, weaving a tale that will squeeze your heart and leave you thinking once you reach the end.
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