A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness
Rating: 4.5 stars
I had heard wonderful things about Patrick Ness' novel A Monster Calls and in the past had opened it and flicked through the first few pages but, for some reason, I put it down and hadn't picked it back up again. However, this is one of those books that refuses to go away, no matter where you turn people cannot wait to tell you how incredible this story is and how much it moved them emotionally and so I went back and gave it another try and I am absolutely not disappointed that I did. In fact, from this point on I think I'm going to join those legions of people shouting about just how wonderful this beautiful book was.
It's an unusual story, full of imagery and subtle themes that link it all together. It is the story of Connor, a young boy who is struggling to help his mother cope with her cancer and the debilitating effect the treatment of her disease has upon their lives. Living alone together he is her carer and from the outset of this book he talks about the nightmares that haunt him as he tries to manage to care for his mum, school and his feelings that nobody treats him normally anymore.
One night a monster, in the form of a tree, from the graveyard across from his back garden comes calling and tells Connor it is there because Connor called him. An ancient soul this monster says it will tell Connor three stories but in return, he must share the content of his nightmare which haunts him.
Dealing with difficult themes this book is not for younger readers but it is wonderful for young adults looking to explore a book rich with beautiful imagery and there is a gorgeous illustrated edition of this novel available which helps to bring the story to life. Also adapted into a movie starring Felicity Jones and with the voice of Liam Neeson, it also makes the story accessible to those who aren't lovers of books. It is absolutely going on my to watch list within the next few weeks. It isn't overly long, weighing in at just over 200 pages. I read this so quickly picking it up and finishing it in one afternoon because once I had picked it up I really really did not want to put it down.
The core theme of the novel is one of coping with those things that are outwith our control and the fear of having to let go of someone you love. It addresses all of the emotions that accompany that from helplessness to anger to fear and grief. The way in which the monster and the stories it tells reflect the feelings Connor is experiencing in his own life make it very powerful to read and mean that you really lose yourself in the emotion of this story.
This is easily the easiest 5-star rating I've given in a while, it was a beautiful book very powerfully written and with a story that is timeless and will span generations because of its core story of family and love.