A Monster Calls – Patrick Ness/Siobhan Dowd (Illustrated by Jim Kay)
1st April 2012, Walker Books
215 pages, 5/5 stars
I could leave my review at that, and I don’t think anyone could blame me. A Monster Calls is a powerful story about humankind, their grief, and their multiple facets.
Conor’s mother isn’t very well. When she starts getting worse, the monster arrives. Every evening. It isn’t there to scare him. It is there to teach him. It is there to help him confront his greatest fears. It is there to show him the truth.
The monster tells Conor three stories. In each of the tales, humans are shown to have multi-faceted personalities. The apparent good guy isn’t always good. Nor is the bad guy bad. Humans can be a bit of everything. They can be flakey, or steadfast. They can be cruel or kind. Or they can be all of those things at once.
There is not always a good guy. Nor is there always a bad one. Most people are somewhere inbetween.
It is only a short book, but it is brilliant. Jim Kay’s illustrations definitely contribute to the overall beauty. (Jim Kay also did the wonderful Illustrated Harry Potter.) They are dark and mysterious, just like the monster. There is a wild power to them, just as there is to the feeling of grief and despair.
Conor is a wonderful character going through an awful time. He struggles to work through his feelings, wanting to avoid the reality of his life. The monster makes him see the truth, and helps him to understand that his feelings and thoughts are normal, and necessary. The shame which we can feel when watching someone die is perfectly explored and picked apart.
Patrick Ness has done a beautiful job of completing Siobhan Dowd’s story idea. Together with Jim Kay’s illustrations, it creates a very powerful message about grief and loss. It’s an important story for teenagers and adults alike – a story to remind us that it is OK to feel.
There’s a movie coming out later this year which looks fairly true to the book. I know that it will be heartbreaking, but I am determined to see it.
“You’re as old as the land and you’ve never heard of sarcasm?” Conor asked.
Oh, I have heard of it, the monster said, putting its huge branch hands on its hips. But people usually know better than to speak it to me.
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…
The monster is something different, though. Something ancient, something wild. And it wants the most dangerous thing of all from Conor.
IT WANTS THE TRUTH.
In a unique pairing of Carnegie medal winners, Patrick Ness spins an extraordinarily moving tale of love, loss and hope from the final idea of Siobhan Dowd, whose premature death from cancer prevented her from writing it herself.
Do you work through your emotions as you read? What are your favourite emotional reads?