How did I get it: Candlewick was kind enough to give me access to the book’s eGalley, but rest assured that I will be buying a copy of this book the very second it comes out on September 27th. (In the UK, this book was released by Walker on May 5th.)
Why did I get it: I heard about A Monster Calls from The Book Smugglers. I love, love, love monsters so I knew I wanted to read this ASAP. Ana’s review was also posted on the very day that I lost a beloved albeit small and furry friend so finding and A Monster Calls ended up being a remarkably synchronistic discovery and truly cathartic experience.
How I would rate it: 5 out of 5 stars. Definitely one of the best books of 2011.
At seven minutes past midnight, thirteen-year-old Conor wakes to find a monster outside his bedroom window. But it isn’t the monster Conor’s been expecting – he’s been expecting the one from his nightmare, the nightmare he’s had nearly every night since his mother started her treatments. The monster in his backyard is different. It’s ancient. And wild. And it wants something from Conor. Something terrible and dangerous. It wants the truth. From the final idea of award-winning author Siobhan Dowd – whose premature death from cancer prevented her from writing it herself – Patrick Ness has spun a haunting and darkly funny novel of mischief, loss, and monsters both real and imagined.
Review: I loved this book so much and if I had it in a physical form, I would be hugging the heck out of it right now instead of writing this review. I literally read this in one sitting and could not put it down. Everything about this book was exactly what I wanted and needed as a reader just in general, but especially this week. I also wouldn’t really say this book belongs to only one set of readers. It would be a great pick for teens and yet A Monster Calls could easily provide a lot of comfort and solace to anyone going through loss, grief, or guilt in ways that other words or actions sometimes can’t. I know that it really helped me.
Conor was a really believable thirteen-year old protagonist and I enjoyed his journey from beginning to end. His struggles, suffering, and interactions with the monster were really fantastic although obviously this was not a very cheerful book. It was, however, a honest, touching, and moving look at what effects death can have on a person as well as the power of stories have to get us closer to the truth. Even knowing and suspecting what Conor’s truth would be, the scene where he finally has to say as much to the monster, his mother, and himself had an amazing impact.
I also really liked the use of stories within a story motif and the rule of three that turns up a lot in fairy tales. The monster was incredible in terms of all he embodied and all that he shared. I really loved everything he said to Conor. Not just in relation to the boy’s mother, but also that stories are wild and that humans are complicated creatures. Jim Kay’s powerful black and white illustrations really breathed life into the monster. They also added a lot to all the other elements of the book, especially the darkness surrounding Conor.
In conclusion, utter perfection! The writing and illustrations absolutely fantastic and quite a tribute to Siobhan Dowd, an author whose books I clearly need to read. And I will certainly be reading a lot of Patrick Ness in the near future as well.