A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness

I first came across this book a few months ago, seeing only the cover and a short synopsis, and I instantly wanted to read it. I ordered it from my library, only to be informed a few weeks later that they couldn’t find. It was so new it wasn’t in any system anywhere. So I resigned myself to wait.

A couple of weeks ago, as I was putting through a few orders, the librarian asked me if I’d ever gotten my hands on the book. I told him I still hadn’t, and he offered to order it for me now that it was in the Minerva system. I jumped on his offer and only a week or so later, I had it in my possession. I was surprised by how hefty it was, but when I opened it I was pleasantly surprised to see that instead of normal pages, the publishers had printed this book on glossy photo paper that really made the illustrations look gorgeous. The book has some graphic on almost every page- pen and ink drawings clutter the margins, and sometimes an illustration takes up an entire two-page spread. It was an almost cinematic atmospheric trick.

The main character of the book is thirteen year-old Conor, who wakes from his usual nightmare at seven minutes past midnight to find a monster at his window. As it turns out, Conor’s been expecting a monster, but not this strange, old one that seems to have grown from their yew tree. He finds it difficult to fear this thing when he’s seen so much worse. As it turns out, the monster doesn’t even seem particularly interested in eating him alive. Instead, it promises, it will return for three nights, and each night it will tell Conor a story of a time when it walked the earth before. When he’s told his three stories, he expect Conor to tell one to him- the truth.

Conor’s life is anything but easy as his mother seems to be suffering from an undefined cancer, his father lives in America with his other family, and he is bullied at school. On top of all this, every night when he goes to sleep he has the nightmare- one that involved darkness, screaming, falling, and a monster much scarier than the yew tree. Yet, it’s what happens at the end of this nightmare that the yew tree wants to hear about, and Conor is scared to death to tell him.

I found this book remarkable in it’s darkness and honesty. It’s an unusual telling of the story of a young child with an ill parent and circumstances he can’t control. The writing was both heavy and humorous, Conor both bold and frightened. It was a quick read, yet very provocative. I know I’ve posted this video before, but just watch it.

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Published in: on November 24, 2011 at 3:00 pm  Comments (1)  
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