By: Manuela Soares
A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness
Inspired by an idea from Siobhan Dowd
Illustrations by Jim Kay
“Stories don’t always have happy endings.”
Heart-wrenching. Tear-jerking. Soul crushing. Incredible. This story is all those and so much more. Inspired by Siobhan Dowd, Patrick Ness has crafted a story that will tear your heart out, stomp on it, and, for good measure, rip it to pieces. It will bring up every sad memory and regret yet apply a soothing balm to an aching soul. This is a book that will completely destroy you but in the most remarkable of ways.
I knew very little about the book before I started it, but from what I knew I was expecting a creepy and spooky book about a boy and a “monster.” What I found, on the other hand, was a touching and emotional book that got me right in the feels and made me want to hold on to my mom and never let go. Between the incredible writing and the beautiful illustrations, this book is a must-read for everyone.
“Stories are important, the Monster said. They can be more important than anything. If they carry the truth.”
A Monster Calls follows thirteen-year-old Conor as he goes through the motions of living as his mother undergoes treatment for a returned cancer, and how he eventually comes to terms with her terminal illness. He has the same nightmare near every night and that nightmare draws in the “monster” of this story. The monster, who takes the form of the yew tree in the cemetery behind their house, visits Conor at 12:07 am and over the course of the book tells Conor three stories, with Conor telling the fourth story: his truth. The three stories the monster tells Conor are not always what they seem and always end differently than how Conor thinks they will. Through these stories, we learn that not everything is as it seems and, to me at least, it’s a reminder that there are always multiple sides to every story and that you should always look deeper.
“There is not always a good guy. Nor always a bad one. Most people are somewhere in between.”
The characters in this book were well written and the interaction between them shows how even those who are on different ends of the personality spectrum can come together and unite; especially when it concerns loved ones. One relationship that really showcases this is that of Conor and his grandmother. When she is first introduced to the story, Conor is immediately dismayed at the thought that she would be staying with him and his mum, especially as her staying means that he would be booted from his room. Though she no doubt does love Conor, she is a slightly cold and pushy woman; constantly wanting things to go her way. Their relationship thaws over the course of the book and though their personalities don’t change, they both crack towards the end and come to an accord. They both love Conor’s mother immensely and knowing that she’s knocking on death’s door brings them together.
“Belief is half of all healing. Belief in the cure, belief in the future that awaits.”
I don’t want to give too much of the story away, as I want those who read this review, yet haven’t read the book and wish to do so, to have a genuine reaction to it, without too many spoilers or preconceived notions, so I will just say this: sometimes we need someone to say that it’s okay to be sad, to be angry, to be afraid, etc., and that’s one of the things that I feel that this book does; it shows us that those things are okay to feel, that they are a part of life and being human.
“You do not write your life with words, the Monster said. You write it with actions. What you think is not important. It is only important what you do.”
This book was written by award-winning author Patrick Ness, who was inspired by a final idea from award-winning author Siobhan Dowd, who died from advanced breast cancer in 2007 at the age of 47. It was illustrated by Jim Kay, who also illustrated the illustrated editions of Harry Potter. It was adapted to the big screen in 2016 and did an incredible job at bringing this story to life. I thoroughly loved both the book and the movie and honestly, I don’t know which ending I loved more; each was perfect for the story being told. If you have read the book or seen the movie, leave a comment and let me know what you thought.
This review is also posted on Fathoms Amidst the Lines and Goodreads.
*All quotes included in this review were taken from A Monster Calls.