Monday, December 24, 2012

A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness

First published in 2011

If you can, try to get the illustrated version of A Monster Calls – it makes the whole book a beautiful little volume to keep and really enhances the dark themes and emotions present in the book. They mimic the kind of twisted, bitter thoughts present in Connor’s mind, but overall just appeal to the idea of darkness. I think they were haunting and beautiful.

This book is dark. It is raw, it is unflinching and honest, and for all the magic realism present in it, it is a very real story. I knew what was coming – I think that it is clear what will happen from the start. But I did cry, and not even just because the writing was beautiful or it was really tragic – but just because it feels very real and laid bare. Even if you can’t relate to Connor’s sadness, and the reasons for it, I think it is easy to apply those feelings on a personal level, because as they are written they are simple and totally accessible and there is nothing forced about them.

I really loved the idea of the monster calling on Connor. I actually found the monster rather funny with his deadpan lines and how he totally discredits all of Connor’s outbursts. I thought he was kinda cool. I wouldn’t mind if he came calling on me. The ‘monster’ element is actually a really lovely, unforced example of using magic or fantasy to enhance a contemporary story – the two parts work together seamlessly.

Another aspect of A Monster Calls I really enjoyed is the way it uses the importance of stories – stories to occupy our minds, stories to cast light on our own lives, and stories to create beauty out of chaos. Connor may not like the stories the monster tells him, but he cannot deny their importance in getting him to the place he needs to be with his mother.

A Monster Calls is not a story I absolutely love or would hold dear to my heart, but it is a very special story and a beautiful idea. I think many people would cherish it as an emotional attachment - it might be one of those books that ‘gets’ them.

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