Friday, July 8, 2011
A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness
Patrick Ness is really good at making me cry. I have read a lot of books. Sometimes I'll get teary, but the only time I ever really cried was over Patrick Ness' Monsters of Men. I was sobbing for the last 30 pages or so. Sobbing. While this one didn't make me sob, there were definitely tears at the end. You're good, Patrick Ness. Really good. He's good at creating very real, very human emotions that just touch you.
This book was inspired by an idea from Siobhan Dowd, author of A Swift Pure Cry and The London Eye Mystery, who died of breast cancer at 47. In the author's note, Ness writes, "She had the characters, a premise, and a beginning. What she didn't have, unfortunately, was time." He didn't try to mimic her voice when writing, and her ideas gave him ideas, and he wrote this story.
The word "cancer" is never mentioned in the story, not once. It's clear that that's what Conor's mother is receiving treatments for. She's lost her hair, the third day is the worst after she's had her treatments, she's very weak and tired. Conor feels invisible at school. Everyone knows about his mom, and everyone treats him delicately because of it. People forgive him when he acts out, or look away from him. Conor is angry, and he keeps having the nightmare.
Then the yew tree in his yard comes walking, and says it will tell him three stories. Then Conor must tell the truth. The stories the monster tells are not happy ones, and they're confusing. They don't have a clear bad guy or good guy. They don't have happy endings. When the stories are done, Conor has to find the strength to tell the truth about his nightmare.
It was very powerful. I thought it was excellent. It's quite short too, with beautiful black and white drawings by Jim Kay. It's amazing how much can be said in such a short amount of time when it's said well. This is one of those books that I loved, but I'm not totally sure whom I would recommend it too. It would have to be a very particular circumstance that I would say, "I think you would really enjoy A Monster Calls." You should read it though, because it was beautiful and true.
A Monster Calls will be available September 27.