A Monster Calls – Patrick Ness

I have experienced equal quantities of dread and delight whilst anticipating A Monster Calls, a novel which is the joint venture of two highly acclaimed authors of YA fiction.  I’ve been dreading it as it will be my last experience of the wonderful writing of Siobhan Dowd who died in 2007 aged 47.  Siobhan was the author of four brilliant novels, two of which were published posthumously and she had penned some notes for a new book which culiminated in Patrick Ness taking the baton and producing the thing of beauty which is A Monster Calls.

So was it to be a Dowd or a Ness novel, whose influence would be felt the most?  To tell the truth, it’s different from anything either author has produced before.  Yes,  I felt Siobhan’s touch at times but this really feels like a one-off, an original masterpiece.  In just over 200 pages, Patrick Ness weaves the tale of Conor O’Malley, a 13 year old only child who has a battle on his hands.  His single mother is nearing the end of her fight with cancer and Conor has a well meaning grandmother whose good intentions only end up estranging him further.  His father has remarried, now living in the US and is in the clutches of a jealous new wife complete with new baby and he hardly wants the added troubles of his teenage son.  Meanwhile, at school, the only people who really notice Conor are the bullies – everyone else is busily tip-toeing around the elephant in the room/playground.  If that wasn’t enough, a monster comes a-calling, in the shape of a yew tree – yew trees are symbolic of everlasting life and healing but this particular specimen doesn’t seem very friendly.

This is one of the most powerful, compelling books I have ever read.  If you have ever experienced bereavement or even have the slightest human interest in other folks’ emotions, you will adore A Monster Calls.  Its simplicity and lyricism is perfectly balanced by the stark black and white illustrations by Jim Kay.  You must get the “real” hard back edition, not the “pretend” e book version, this is a book which has to be caressed and treasured.  It’s a harrowing read, brutal in its honesty, never veering into mawkishness.  I have a feeling that Siobhan’s novels will have a much deserved renaissance with a whole new influx of readers and I, in turn,  must pick up Patrick Ness’ Chaos Walking trilogy which has languished on my bookshelves for long enough now…

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7 Comments

  1. I’ve been meaning to read Patrick Ness for a really long time, and this review just nudges me to start reading his works. It sounds poignant and touching – your last paragraph really sold it!

  2. Jenny says:

    I’m going to cry so many tears if I read this book. (I wrote “years” which is probably also true.) I want to read it but at the same time I know it’s going to totally destroy my heart. *sigh*

  3. admin says:

    My copy is suffering from water damage due to copious tears – think of it as a necessary catharsis!

  4. SazzyMCH says:

    I have not long read The London Eye Mystery and have book 1 of Chaos Walking on the kindle so this sounds like one for me!

    BTW – good to see you back reviewing ((hugs)) xxx

  5. Treez says:

    Thanks Sarah. :-) Annie loved the Chaos Walking trilogy and we usually like the same YA fiction so I think it will be excellent. This is a very special book.

  6. Annabel says:

    I’ve yet to read O’Dowd, although I have Bog Boy on the shelves. Have read the first two of Ness’s Chaos Walking trilogy and loved them. This book sounds a must too.

  7. admin says:

    Well, I’ll read The Knife of Never Letting Go if you read Bog Child, Annabel and we can compare and contrast! :-)

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