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Wednesday, July 17, 2013

A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness

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.

Released: September 27th 2011          Pages: 215
Publisher: Walker Books                    Source: Library
I searched and searched, and I can't find a full-length, thought-out one star review for this book.  There are some one star reviews on Goodreads, but none of them are full-length.  This is incredibly rare.  This book's disproportionate high ratings are also rare: 56% (out of almost 17,000) of the Goodreads users who read this gave it five stars (with 84% giving it either four or five). 

Pardon my statistics.  I find it fascinating, that this simple little book manages to resonate with so many people, including myself.  There isn't much to the book, plot-wise: it's a simple story about a boy on the verge of losing his mother to cancer, and the way "the monster" helps him cope. 

And yet, there is so much to this book that I can't begin to describe it. 

In the story, the monster wants the truth from Conor, the truth of what Conor really feels.  The book itself is its own truth.  This story is so achingly real, so raw, that it hurts.  It kind of makes you go numb inside.  It's a terrible and wonderful feeling, when a book does this to you. 

I've seen people compare this book to The Fault in Our Stars.  They have much in common--young people dealing with cancer, the death of a major character.  Where tFioS is brilliant in the way it focuses in on two specific people and all the details of their lives and experiences, A Monster Calls is equally impactful because of how vague it is.  There's nothing special about these characters; they're just people.  They could be anybody. 

This book is as much an exploration of emotion as it is a story.  It tackles some heavy-hitting things: grief, loss, fury.  It uses a bit of magical realism to do so, blurring the line between reality and the things going on in Conor's mind.  This aspect of it is brilliant--I love it when authors leave the reality of a situation up to interpretation. 

The thing about it is that, before you even begin, you know what's going to happen.  Or at least, I did, and I don't think I'm alone in it.  I knew, and Conor knew, even if neither of us wanted to admit it.  And though we thought the knowing might take the sting away, it didn't.  Patrick Ness is wonderful at creating and bringing out emotion in his gorgeous prose, and he didn't shy away from it here.

Those were my feelings that you just hurt, Patrick Ness.  I hope you're satisfied with the number of people you've caused to start crying.

Okay, so I didn't cry.  I don't really cry for books or movies--it's just my personality.  I mean, come on.  I'm an INTJ.  That doesn't mean I didn't feel anything.  Just because it didn't make me shed physical tears doesn't mean I'm an unfeeling, cold, emotionless statue, thank you very much. 
This book takes you by the hand and leads you to the edge of a cliff.  Then it lets go, forcing you to peer over the edge.  And you won't like what you see.  But you know you'll have to take that leap.  At this point, it comes back, envelopes you, and takes the leap with you.  And in doing so, you'll accept the themes of this book, because you have no choice, but also because it's all done in a beautiful way, and you want nothing more than to sit and admire even more Patrick Ness's gorgeous prose and symbolism.
It's not so much the story in itself--it's the way it relates to everything.  It's the way it causes you to step back, immerse yourself in it, and then come back into the world with all these new thoughts.
I can't leave this review without talking about the pictures.  This book has pictures, and they are gorgeous.  They're a bit haunting at times, and I loved them.  They are what really makes this book come together.  Reading it has an impact, but seeing the words with the pictures is what makes the impact even greater. 
Alright.  Feelsfest over.  I think.  Maybe.  Read this book, people.

Similar Books: A Monster Calls deals with cancer and loss like The Fault in Our StarsIt has a bit of magical realism like I Am the MessengerThe writing style will appeal to fans of Patrick Ness's other books, the Chaos Walking trilogy.

(Note: I didn't review this in my usual categorical way because I thought that would take away the impact of this book.  It's short, at only just over 200 pages.  There isn't enough to fill out a full category review, but there's enough to review in paragraph form.  If that makes sense.)
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