Wednesday, June 20, 2012

REVIEW: A Monster Calls (A stunning examination of grief, recovery and story by @Patrick_Ness)

Ness, P.  (2011).  A Monster Calls.  Somerville, MA:  Candlewick Press.

206 pages.

Appetizer:  Thirteen-year-old Conor has a multitude of problems:  His mom is sick and the treatments may not be working.  His grandmother, who he doesn't get along with, is coming to the house to help.  He almost never hears from his Dad who has a new family in America.  He's bullied by three kids at school and all of the teachers and other students treats him differently because Lily, who had once been a close friend, told everyone about how ill his mom is.

Oddest of all, a monster begins to visit Conor some nights at 12:07 AM.  Surprisingly, Conor isn't frightened by it.  He has a nightmare that is far worse; one that he fears more than anything and refuses to tell anyone....

The monster insists he tell Conor three stories and in return Conor must tell him the truth of his nightmare.  The monster's stories prove strange and Conor seeks ways that they and the monster can help him with his grief and difficult situations, most important among them, saving his mother.

The characters of A Monster Calls were originally the children of Siobhan Dowd, who died far to young.  The novel I most associate with her name is Bog Child, a book that I have been meaning to review for several years.

A Monster Calls recently won two (COUNT THEM!  TWO!!!!!!  One and one equals two!...boy, am I good at math....) Carnegie Awards:  One for text and one for illustration.  I think both awards are well deserved.  It was wonderful to ease into a well-written book and the art did an amazing job of adding to the tone and eeriness of the story.  Here are some of my favorite images:

I set this one as one as one of my desktop backgrounds!

Also, if you'd like to read about the creation process for A Monster Call's, click here.

I found A Monster Calls to be a great complex read (although, certainly not a book to pick-up if you want a laugh).  It has the feel of a classic.  The way Ness deals with the emotions Conor is avoiding and enduring is beautifully done and can provide a lot of comfort to anyone who has shared some of the feelings Conor struggles with.

Dinner Conversation:

"The monster showed up just after midnight.  As they do.
Conor was awake when it came.
He'd had a nightmare.  Well, not a nightmare.  The nightmare.  The one he'd been having a lot lately.  The one with the darkness and the wind and the screaming.  The one with the hands slipping from his grasp, no matter how hard he tried to hold on." (p. 1)

"He felt a rush of panic, his guts twisting.  Had it followed him?  Had it somehow stepped out of the nightmare and--?
"Don't be stupid," he told himself.  "You're too old for monsters."
And he was.  He'd turned thirteen just last month.  Monsters were for babies.  Monsters were for bedwetters.  Monsters were for--
Conor. (pp. 2-3)

"I have come to get you, Conor O'Malley, the monster said, pushing against the house, shaking the pictures off Conor's wall, sending books and electronic gadgets and an old stuffed toy rhino tumbling to the floor.
A monster, Conor thought.  A real, honest-to-goodness monster.  In real, waking life.  Not in a dream, but here, at his window.
Come to get him.
But Conor didn't run.
In fact, he found he wasn't even frightened.
All he could feel, all he had felt since the monster revealed itself, was a growing disappointment.
Because this wasn't the monster he was expecting." (p. 8)

"The monster gave an evil grin.  The wind died down and a quiet fell.  At last, said the monster.  To the matter at hand.  The reason I have come walking.
Conor tensed, suddenly dreading what was coming.
Here is what will happen, Conor O'Malley, the monster continued, I will come to you again on further nights.
Conor felt his stomach clench, like he was preparing for a blow.
And I will tell you three stories.  Three tales from when I walked before. (p. 35)

Tasty Rating:  !!!!!

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