Last week, I mentioned that A Monster Calls was on my to-read list. That got me thinking that it was high time I read it, and why had I waited so long? Goodreads is a fabulous site, but it can’t help you if you mistakenly move a book from your to-read shelf to your read shelf. Which is what had happened with this monstrous and wonderful book!
I immediately fixed the situation by putting it on its proper shelf electronically and placing a hold through my local branch of the library. (I loooooove putting books on hold. I love NYPL even more for allowing me to put up to 20 items on hold. Fabulous!) Once my copy arrived, I devoured it.
A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness
This was a four star book for me – and I’m a hard grader. (Though I may need to rethink that and give it a 5th star.)
Author Ness thanks Siobhan Dowd in his introduction, saying that the original idea for the book was hers, but sadly, she died before writing it. Ness does her justice here. A Monster Calls is a wrenching book about fear, loss, and the monsters that plague us all. Conor’s mom is sicker than before, even though she won’t admit it. He wakes, sweating, from the same nightmare each night, but one night, something is different. The yew tree on the hill has come to visit.
But Conor isn’t afraid. This monster isn’t the one of his nightmare, though it does its best to frighten him. But what the monster wants does frighten Conor – because it wants the truth. Ness does a great job showing us Conor’s true feelings, and all of the secondary characters act realistically, including the bully who threatens Conor at school and Conor’s teachers. While our sympathies are always with Conor, he’s no saint, and we root for him when he behaves badly because the adults around him often behave worse. And though the characters are grounded in the everyday, Ness’s use of fantasy elements and magical realism makes the story more vivid and beautiful.
Folks may be talking about YA books and death and focusing on Mr. Green and his runaway freight train of a book, but A Monster Calls is middle grade all the way. And in its own quiet way, maybe even a better book.
P.S. The True Story of the Three Little Pigs is 25 years old! How cool is that? I loved reading PW’s article about its journey to publication. Perhaps I should order some more copies for my school library. It’s never on the shelf….