A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness
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.
My grandma died just over a year ago after a short battle with cancer. The last night I saw her she didn't look like herself; she was so thin and frail, she couldn't talk to me, and I was absolutely terrified. I had known what was coming, and I knew then it would be the last chance I had, but I pushed all of that down that night. I couldn't kiss her as I was leaving because I was so scared, and that is something I've hated myself for ever since. I didn't let my monster come walking, and I didn't say the things I wanted to say. With A Monster Calls, Ness has given me Conor, and he's shown me that it's okay. It has to take an incredible author to evoke realisation like that in a reader, but more particularly, in me.
Conor's story is both poignant and heartbreaking. This kid is thirteen and shouldering problems that could put a thirty year old down for life. The monster arrives at seven minutes past midnight every night to tell Conor confusing and twisted fables that seem ridiculous to him, but which have untold bearing on his life, and help him to understand and interpret the things he's going through. He learns to let go, whether that be metaphorically, or quite literally, and he learns that everything he's feeling is okay.
Watching Conor experience everything in this way is moving and heartbreaking, and most of all, unfair. Life will unfold in ways we would never want it to, but Ness shows us it's how we react and look after ourselves that truly matters.
Ness writes in a beautifully simple yet lyrical way, with the realism of ordinary life juxtaposed against the magic of the monster's arrival. One moment we're safe at home or school, the next we're involved in the most horrific of everyday struggles, and then finally we're in the arms of the monster and he's telling us why. As a book targeted to a young adult audience, Ness is (as ever) careful not to patronise, yet succeeds beautifully in landing his message bravely.
I'm lucky enough to have the edition illustrated by Jim Kay, and it was completely gorgeous. Each page was peppered with small drawings, which added a magical importance to the words. Best of all were the larger pictures spanning two pages; these utterly took my breath away, and gave a brilliant depth to the monster and the setting.
An incredible story; one you'll read with an ache in your heart, but one which holds serious lessons on grief, loss, and acceptance.