Sunday, November 13, 2016
A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness
This is the kind of book that I was talking about last week when I said that both younger and older readers would enjoy it. I didn't really know what to expect when I found this book and picked it up off the shelf at the store. While I've seen stories like this one before, I don't think I've seen anyone do it as well as this book did. I mean it is really, really well done. Let's get to it.
Conner O'Malley's life is taking a very serious turn for the worse. He's got a lot to deal with for a thirteen year old boy. A sick mother, an overbearing grandmother, a deadbeat dad, bullies at school and a terrifying reoccurring nightmare takes over his world. On top of all that, a monster is visiting him just after midnight almost every night, telling him things he doesn't believe and asking him things that he cannot say.
The beauty of this story is the question of just how much is real and how much is in our protagonist's own mind. It's a very clever way of looking into the mind of someone so young going through so much and seeing the world how he sees it. I'm glad I read this as now, when I'm an adult and can truly understand the emotions of every character in this book. I can see why the adults treat Conner the way thad do and understand why they do, even if Conner can't. On the other hand I also remember what it was like to be Conner's age and can understand his emotions through all of this as well. With this in mind, every character in this book is very real. Even the bullies behave like real people would (evil, snot-nosed, bratty people, but my point still stands).
Also, as I said, one of the best thing is the "monster" and who or what it is. If this monster is real, how does nobody else notice it? If it's just a figment of Conner's imagination, how can it leave physical evidence behind? Overall, though, is what the monster represents and how it impacts Conner's behavior and changes how he sees the world. There is a visual journey in this book that takes you through the lessons that you'd learn in any given psychology class and breathes life into them. It makes the journey personal and you're pulled into Conner's world so well that you feel everything he feels and want to do everything he does. It's brilliantly written and beautifully captured.
Another thing that I wanted to talk about is that I got the illustrated version of this book and thank goodness I did. The artist, Jim Kay (who also does the illustrated Harry Potter books) does just a fantastic job with this imagery. It's all in black and white but there's such depth and character that it just brings the story to life and sets the mood for it. The depictions of the monster are wonderfully detailed and intricate and I just loved it. This book is apparently going to be a movie sometime in the future and if it looks half as good as the book does, you can bet on me being at the theater on opening weekend.
Fabulous. Just a fabulous book written so perfectly, captured so brilliantly, and it's just the story that everyone needs once in awhile. It makes me want to check out more from Ness and more from the author who inspired the story, Siobhan Dowd, and this book is going straight onto the Shelf or Recommendation!
Have you read the book? What did you think? Comment below and share your thoughts.
Next time: It's time to for another historical redo, only this time history is going to get a lot more steam-powered....