Title: A Monster Calls
Author: Patrick Ness
Genre: Young Adult | Fantasy | Horror
Synopsis: The monster showed up 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…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.
Final Rating: ★★★★☆
Would I recommend? To everyone.
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So, anybody who has been on the booktubing/book-blogging community for even a small amount of time knows about this book. I mean, who doesn’t know about this book? And even if you don’t know about this book, you know who Patrick Ness is. You should know who Patrick Ness is because he’s a phenomenal writer, perhaps one of the best YA writers of our time, definitely one of my favorites.
I’ve been in a book hangover ever since I finished reading the Chaos Walking trilogy, and I just had this thought in my mind that the only people who could possibly get me over that trilogy are J.K. Rowling and Patrick Ness himself. Everybody who knows even the tiniest thing about me knows that Jo is my queen, but I decided to give A Monster Calls a try. I went out, picked it up and started reading it that very night, and finished it in a day. It would’ve taken me even less, but school’s a bitch.
Complete with brilliantly surreal illustrations (all in black-and-white) and a fair amount of heartbreak and sorrow and mindfucks, this book is a treat to read. It moves from one point to the next so smoothly, so seamlessly, it’s as if you’re watching a short animation film. It’s a delight to read. For such a short book, it has an extremely strong, intelligent, developing character who you see evolve with the turn of every page.
The only reason that I didn’t give this book a 4.5 or 5 stars is because it didn’t have that extra UNF to it that I had expected from Patrick Ness after reading his Chaos Walking trilogy. It was very different, and I didn’t expect it to be so different. Nevertheless, I absolutely adore this book and I will pick it up again very soon for a re-read.
Here, I have to acknowledge Siobhan Dowd, the woman who came up with the original idea. I didn’t research extensively on this topic, so I’m not entirely sure as to how much Ness borrowed from her. But I think Ness carries the story as if it was his own. By that, I don’t mean he takes credit for it, nope, nope, but that he takes this idea, moulds it so it fits his writing style and then carries it out with such passion in the memory of his friend that it becomes just as much his as Dowd’s.
Now, to the actual plot. I think the premise of this novel is so clever. I’ve never been big with monster books for some reason. I’d never been fascinated with them while I was a kid, but I can appreciate the concept of a monster. The monster in this novel is so brilliant. The way Ness integrates the narrative with the miracles of the mother nature was a delight to read about.
Our main character is Conor, and his mom has cancer. He’s learning to cope with her illness as well as being a social outcast at school, and things aren’t really helping that a monster comes to him every night with the intent to tell him stories. It’s such a simple, yet vastly complex plot at the same time. The stories within the story were just as beautifully crafted. And the illustrations facilitated the plot in a way I couldn’t imagine. If I were to recommend this book to anyone, I would definitely ask them to buy the illustrated copy.
I especially enjoyed that I still don’t know whether the monster was actually physically present for Conor, or whether it was just a monster within Conor trying to deal with the stuff going on around him. Sometimes, I felt as if the monster was real; other times, I was confident that it was a complete figment of Conor’s psychological state. I’m still not sure, and I love it.
There is such great depth to Conor. There aren’t a lot of secondary characters in this extremely short novel. The focus is very primarily on our protagonist and his conflict, and that’s hard to do. Often, we learn about main characters more from secondary characters, but I was happy with Conor’s development in this book. His feelings were so raw yet dishonest. He was so compassionate but detached at the same time. I’m not entirely sure how Ness managed to construct such a multi-dimensional, nuanced character in just over 200 pages, but he did it. And that’s what makes him such a fantastic writer.
I felt that even though I didn’t particularly RELATE with Conor’s character because he goes through some stuff in a way I never have, I still completely understood him. His very real feelings of denial, and isolation, and being invisible were such profoundly raw emotions that I couldn’t help but put myself in his shoes and nod to myself like, “yes, I get it.”
I don’t want to spoil anything for anyone, but the people who have read this book will know what I’m talking about: I will NEVER forget the cafeteria scene between Harry and Conor. Never. Such a powerful scene. I got goosebumps while reading it, and they still threaten to pop up whenever I think about it.
I can’t even.