A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness

Whew…here goes. Remember that reading slump that I’ve been in? I think I may have finally snapped out of it thanks to Mr. Ness. A Monster Calls reminded me that there are amazing books out there. Books that won’t let you put it down. Books that will make you cry your eyes out. Books that will make you feel things you haven’t felt in a long time. Books that stimulate your mind and give you a feast for the eyes as well.

After reading Mr. Ness’ four young adult books that are out now (he does have a couple of other books that I own but haven’t read yet), I can see that he is a master at capturing human emotions. Not just capturing them, but relaying them to you and bringing you into the story as well. I didn’t know what to expect with A Monster Calls. I didn’t even know anything about the book. Just that it was based on an idea by Siobhan Dowd and was written by Mr. Ness. I did know that it would be engrossing as all of his books are. And I was warned that I should have plenty of tissues handy (which you should, by the way).

A Monster Calls is, at it’s surface, the story of Conor, his insecurities, his mother who is suffering with cancer, and a monster. As his mother’s cancer progresses, a monster comes to visit Conor. The monster tells Conor three tales and expects a fourth from Conor when he is finished his three. Conor’s story has to be the story he holds within him. The truth of things that he is afraid to tell.

Aside from the time spent with the monster, we get to know Conor and all he struggles with. This is what hit me the most. The honesty of the book. Ness says himself in the novel:

“Stories are important,” the monster said. “They can be more important than anything. If they carry the truth.”

And that’s one thing that Ness always shows us. The truth. And I think it’s one of the reasons that his novels are so hard hitting. They take us to places that we don’t always want to go. We live the stories with the characters and see that there is a bad side and a good side to everyone. But that having a “bad side” doesn’t make us a bad person. That because something is universally acknowledged as being good, that it its taboo to act any other way does not make us a bad person if we don’t always meet society’s criteria. That it instead makes us human.

You can imagine what Conor goes through watching his mom suffering with cancer. I’m not going to give anything away, but I can imagine that it was just as gruelling a story to write for Patrick Ness as it was for me to read. I love him for that. I love that he jumps into subject matters that so few other authors do.

And this amazing story is accompanied with equally amazing art throughout the book. Here, look at a page:

And that’s just a page with a border illustration. There are two page spreads of amazing artwork throughout this book that capture the feel of the novel perfectly. This aspect of it actually reminded me a lot of Neil Gaiman’s The Graveyard Book. In fact, Jim Kay’s illustrations often brought to mind Dave McKean’s illustrations. They are gorgeous and haunting and lend a perfect accompaniment to the novel.

I can’t give this book enough praise. Except to say that it’s the best novel I’ve read this year. And it will forever remain in my heart. Ms. Dowd would have been proud. Thanks for the stories, Mr. Ness.

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19 Responses

  1. *sigh* You suck. I just went and bought it…

  2. Wow … what a review! Onto the “books to read” list it goes.

  3. OH…..I really need to read this!! I have been so caught up with school, I’ve hardly had any time to read for pleasure..at all! It is so bad that I’ve had both Mockingjay AND Monsters of Men on my nightstand, and STILL haven’t read them. Actually, I reread Hunger Games, so I think I will reread Catching Fire next so I can finish that series. I plan to spend the summer in endless books!!

    On a good note, for school I actually read Jane Eyre (a reread), Frankenstein, Dracula, Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde, tons of Poe, The Haunting of Hill House and The Eyre Affair. So the semester wasn’t a total loss!

  4. You’re going to make me buy this book though I should be on a book-buying ban! *sigh* What a wonderful review!

  5. Kelly, HAHA!! YAY!!! I’m so glad that you bought it 😀 I don’t think you’ll regret it!!

    Melissa, Glad to hear it’s on your TBR list now 😀 It’s so good! You won’t be disappointed.

    Steph, Hey sweet pea! You DO need to read this! But you’ll have to order it from The Book Depository as it doesn’t come out here until September. It’s amazing though!! And yes indeed you need to finish Monsters of Men!! That class you took at school sounds AWESOME!! Was it a gothic lit class or somethn?

    Vasilly, Well if you’re going to break a ban, this is definitely the book to break it for :p Thanks 🙂

  6. an awful lot being said about this book….but to be honest, I don’t need any more reasons to cry, so for now this is on a back burner.. maybe someday. I can tell by all the reviews how emotional it is ..I’m sure this book is a hit! I’m glad you enjoyed it!

  7. Agreed–best book I’ve read all year, too. Without question.

  8. *Laughs at Kelly’s comment* I think we all feel her pain, heehee. ;-p

    I’ve just read one book by Ness, The Knife of Never Letting Go, which I thought was amazing. This one sounds just as good so will add it my ‘get at some stage’ list. Great review, Chris.

  9. Yay! I am so glad you loved it too.

  10. Toootally want to read this one. Ana’s review got me interested and you sealed the deal!

  11. Added to my wishlist. The premise sounds so interesting, and I’m a sucker for gorgeously illustrated books.

  12. Isn’t it wonderful? I loved this book, and am so glad I went to see Ness talk, because he just comes across so well. And it is always nice when authors whose work you enjoy come across as nice intelligent people 🙂

  13. […] Other reviews: Things Mean a Lot ; Serenipity ; Jess hearts books ; Ooops… Wrong Cookie ; Stuff as dreams are made of […]

  14. I was left a right mess by the end of this one. It’s so good.

  15. Well, I’m so behind in reading that I could probably wait until Sept! BUT, I really need a good book of short stories to read right now.

    Yes, It was exactly that. The class was The Short Story and The Novel….Gothic Literature. Such fun, but DAMN, was it a lot of work! Tons of reading, quizzes, 4 papers and a couple of exams. Fun stuff though. For my Brit lit Class, I did a blog on Daphne du Maurier. I should post that.

    So good to be back. I’ve missed you!

  16. But. But. But whyyyyy can’t it be in America yet? I have gift cards to the Strand but I cannot justify the expense to the Book Depository. Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa.

  17. Yours is the third review and all of them are enthusiastic. I already bought it but I’m afraid now that my expectations are far too high…

  18. I saw the word “cancer” and couldn’t go any further, but I thought I’d say hello. Hi, Chris! 🙂

  19. I can’t wait to read this one! Thanks for a great review, Chris.

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