Thursday, 20 June 2013

A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness

Title: A Monster Calls
Author: Patrick Ness, Siobhan Dowd
Illustrator: Jim Kay
Publisher: Walker Books
Released: September 27th 2011
Pages: 215 (Paperback)
Buy: Amazon UK / Amazon US
Add on Goodreads

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.

In book stores, my eyes always wandered over to A Monster Calls. It's shape, it's colouring, it's synopsis - everything about it was intriguing, but something stopped me reading it. I don't really know what it was exactly, I guess I just didn't think it would be my kind of book. That, and the fact that I didn't finish Ness' famous Chaos Walking trilogy - a part of me just didn't like his writing style, and although I knew the idea had originally been Dowd's (and I have loved previous books of hers) I could never bring myself to try it - until now, that is. My school is taking part in the Carnegie awards, and the librarian was explaining how A Monster Calls won last year and how utterly amazing it was. I trust her judgement, so I checked it out and started reading it today...and my God, am I ashamed that I hadn't read this sooner.

Conor, a boy of thirteen, has vivid nightmares every night - well, not nightmares, but a single specific nightmare, over and over again. So he's not surprised when the monster comes for him. What does surprise him is the fact that it isn't the monster he was expecting. This monster wants to tell him three stories in exchange for a fourth of his own. The problem is, Conor doesn't have any stories to tell - or so he thinks. But as it turns out, all the monster wants is the truth.

I think that the most unique thing about this book is how Siobhan Dowd came up the idea, but Patrick Ness wrote and published it. Unfortunately, Dowd died of cancer before she could write it, so the idea was handed over to Ness. I have to say, I was pretty impressed by the way he carried it off - I imagine there was a lot of pressure on him to deliver the book to a certain standard, and it really did turn out amazingly.

The characterisation was impeccable. Although Conor was a thirteen year old boy, so a lot different from me, I was able to relate to him perfectly. Half the time, it felt like I was inside his head, and I think part of the brilliance of the story was that you could interpret Conor's pain into your own. It was heartbreaking to watch his world collapse around him, and because you could relate to his pain, I think it felt like your world was the one collapsing instead.

The way Ness built up the story... you knew what was coming, but the suspense with thick nonetheless. You didn't want it to happen - you knew it would but you didn't want to; you had hope, and you hoped alongside Conor, and it just made the heartbreak worse.

By the end of it, I was in tears - not quiet tears, but these great ugly sobs. I get quite emotional at books anyway, but this time was different. Some books change you, and this was one of them. The emotion was raw, the suspense was intense, and the drawings were absolutely beautiful. Okay, maybe beautiful isn't the right word, but they were captivating, and I think they played a big part in making the book unique. I may not have liked The Knife of Never Getting Go, but I loved A Monster Calls. It's the kind of book that everyone needs to read at least once in their lifetime - I definitely recommend it.
Rating: 5/5

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