Saturday, 20 August 2016

'A Monster Calls' by Patrick Ness (2011)

Synopsis: A Monster Calls is a low-fantasy middle-grade children's novel. The story was conceived by the author Siobhan Dowd but because of her terminal cancer she arranged for the book to be written by Patrick Ness. Connor O'Malley is a 13 year old boy living in modern-day England whose single mother is seriously ill from cancer. As if that wasn't upsetting enough, Connor's father has moved to America, he has a strained relationship with his grandmother, he's being bullied at school, and he's having a terrible recurring nightmare. Then one night, at exactly 12.07 am, an ancient monster turns up outside Connor's house. Connor isn't the least bit afraid of the monster (as the thing that he sees in his nightmares is far more terrifying) although the monster is certainly menacing-looking. The monster then makes a deal with Connor. The monster will tell Connor three stories that will be of help to him and in return Connor must then tell the monster a story - a story with a deadly truth that upsets Connor more than anything.

A Monster Calls is my first Patrick Ness novel. I'm not really a huge reader of middle-grade and YA fiction so that's probably the reason why I only found out about this hugely popular author a year ago! That was back when it was announced that Ness would be the show-runner of the new Doctor Who spin-off show Class. But when I then saw the stunning trailer for this book's film adaptation I was suddenly no longer content with Class being my first experience of Ness's work and knew that I would have to read this book sooner rather than later! :D

A Monster Calls has won many awards and it completely deserves them as it's an absolutely brilliant fable and is such an absorbing and compelling read. The book is quite short with a story that is superficially simple and yet it is so beautiful, moving and poignant. Obviously given that this book deals with grief, death and loss it's a very sad read in places - but then it's also a book with powerful themes of courage, love, hope and forgiveness. I can understand why some might be hesitant to read this book but it is a more uplifting read than one might think.

This book is so nuanced, compassionate and intelligently written as well. Connor does do some pretty bad things in this book but, because of his situation and his emotions being so vividly portrayed, as the reader you're able to understand exactly why he's behaving in the way that he does. This, combined with his spirit and his flashes of sarcasm, makes him hugely endearing and sympathetic. Also the stories that the monster tells go to some surprising places with its characters all being complex and morally ambiguous. This book isn't at all sanctimonious or condescending to its younger audience.

A Monster Calls may well have been written for a middle-grade child audience but it's an astounding novel with huge depth that teenagers and adults will also be able to love. I'm so excited to see this book's film adaptation and to experience more of Ness's work now, especially his dystopian sci-fi series Chaos Walking which is also getting a big-screen adaptation. I'd really like to read some of Siobhan Dowd's work as well.

Oh, and before I wrap this thing up I absolutely must recommend getting the illustrated version of this book rather than the non-illustrated paperback or the e-book version! I have nothing against e-readers at all (I myself own a Kindle) but Jim Kay's pictures in the illustrated version are so atmospheric, spooky and stunning! They not only complement the text beautifully, they enhance it. I mean, just look at them!

Rating: 5/5

No comments: