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.
Despite my undeniable love for A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness, this is a book that is difficult to review. First, for its beautifully crafted story that is best read and experienced rather than explained, and second, because no matter my writing capabilities, I believe I could not do this book justice.
Perhaps one of the most profound and beautiful stories I have read in 2015, A Monster Calls is a timeless story that is powerful for all its simplicity. Allegorical and metaphorical by nature, A Monster Calls can be interpreted in many different ways and tells more than one story. It tells of the fallibility of appearances, the stories we tell ourselves, the complexities of human beings, the inadequacy of ‘good/bad’ dichotomies, and the struggles of youth and family. More so, despite its elements of magical realism, A Monster Calls also tells of something incredibly real and inherent to the human experience: of grief and loss.
Grief is something that we will all experience in our lives. Though it is so normalized in our way of life, grief – both as an emotion and life-changing experience – is something that is deeply and viscerally felt. It changes us; it rearranges our organs – our eyes, our hearts, our guts, our skin. After reading A Monster Calls, it struck me that the most heart-wrenching and painful facet of grief is not the palpable, wrenching sorrow; it is the throes of denial, shame, loneliness, and guilt. To depict such an affecting and relentless emotion is no small feat, but at the hands of Ness, it is flawlessly done. Ness masterfully and successfully portrays the many faces of grief with an honesty that is both comforting and almost painful to witness. For something so raw, it was delivered with incredible gentleness and sensitivity. (Oh, the ending will still make you sob like a baby, like it did me.)
Though the book possesses a strong thematic focus, the characters are never disembodied mouthpieces to its themes and ideas. All characters possessed an undeniable humanness, and there was not a character I could not empathize with. I connected with all characters on a deep, emotional level, especially with Conor, the protagonist of A Monster Calls. Entering Conor’s mind and seeing the world through his eyes and heart was a seamless, effortless process. In ways, I was Conor, and Conor was, and will be, me.
And then, the unlikely friend to you, to me, to Conor: the monster. Similarly to the contents and overall message of the book, our own unique life experiences and perspectives will shape how we perceive the Monster and what it embodies. For me, the Monster was a force – the force that compels us to realize, to accept, and to forgive – or a single manifestation of all the powerful forces in the world. The Monster may be the most mysterious character of the book, but it was also incredibly familiar. Why, because the Monster truly understands — and I think that is the thing we desire and fear the most.
A Monster Calls is an absolutely necessary piece of literature, is wonderfully written, and accessible to readers of all ages. There are many things to appreciate in A Monster Calls; no matter your age, you will find a piece of yourself in this book. On a more personal note, I wish I had this book when my grandfather passed. Though it has been sixteen years and the scars may tingle, this book has given me solace: that of being understood. And that’s the powerful, beautiful thing: child, teenager, adult, parent, A Monster Calls is the sort of book that will always understand us. Whatever we endure in life, whatever pain and hardship, A Monster Calls will be what comes walking.
Thank you Ness and Dowd for this book; thank you.
Book Name: A Monster Calls
Author: Patrick Ness
Publisher: Walker Books