Sorry! Half of this post was accidentally published a little while ago - completely my error. Hopefully, I’ve fixed it this time… This is the complete review!
I’m a total evangelist for Patrick Ness’ Chaos Walking books (seriously - go read them), so even though I felt weird about it I just sucked it up and read his newest novel, the middle-grade A Monster Calls. And oh, how glad I am that my book-snobbishness didn’t prevent me from partaking of this delightful, heartfelt fable!
I owe my soul to Candlewick and NetGalley for allowing me to pre-read this title. Or, not my soul. But I sure owe them something.
Title: A Monster Calls
Author: Patrick Ness
Publication Date: 27 September 2011
Publishing House: Candlewick Press
Page Count: 215 (Hardcover)
I like writing reviews of books I love. It makes blogging easy - all I have to do is sit at my computer and gush. I’ll try to keep this sensical, but I’m not sure I’ll be able to control the following outpouring of unabashed admiration. There’s something magical about this book - it is reminiscent of C. S. Lewis’ books, from that age of thoughtful and enchanting children’s literature.
The premise of the novel is a popular one in children’s and middle-grade literature - that of losing a loved one. Thirteen-year-old Conor has had to make some serious adjustments over the past couple of years - his father left to have a new family in America, and more recently, his beloved mother has been diagnosed with cancer. However, at seven minutes past midnight, a monstrous tree appears outside his window and proceeds to tell him three tales. And so begins Conor’s often dark, often emotional, often very funny journey towards acceptance and maturity.The simple, powerful plot is almost archaic in terms of structure - the tale is an homage to children’s literature, to fairy tales, and to story-telling itself - but for all of that it’s still very fresh and engaging. Reminiscent of a fable (it’s use of numbers, repetition, and recurring motifs being key in this), the novel’s tone and structure make the magical and supernatural elements of the tale feel very natural. (Haha - get it? Natural? The book’s about a talking tree, people). Despite the fact that the conclusion is to be expected, the tale was inventive and surprising.
However, the magic of Ness’ writing is his ability to generate empathy. (Well - his writing is magical too, but I’ll get to that). I loved Conor. I loved his grandmother, too - such a sharply delineated character. But, most of all, I loved the eponymous Monster. Such is the magic of this novel. A tree was my favorite character.
Every single one, though, was easy to relate to - and to understand, even when their choices or motivations are different from what you, as a reader, might think. I thought Conor’s interactions with his estranged father - the childlike need to love and be loved at conflict with the maturity forced upon him - was especially telling.
The writing in this book is incredible (I had to think of a word other than “magical” to use - but “magical” definitely works, too). It’s a story that talks about story-telling, and I love that. But it’s definitely a good solid story even if you’re not interested in subtext.I felt it to be a commentary on the power of stories in our lives - the great power of stories to change people and to open their eyes to the world and themselves.
Is it obvious that I love this book? I don’t even think I need to explain. I was a little weirded at first, because it’s a middle grade novel and, you know, I’m a teenager. But I ate it with a spoon. And the illustrations? (Yep, there’s pictures, folks). Wow. I died a little. So amazing! Atmospheric and absolutely perfect. Props to you, whoever illustrated this book. Okay - props? Seriously? That sounded so stupid. I should have said “I commend you”.
Premise & Originality: 0.5 Stars
Plot: 1 Star
Characters: 1 Star
Writing: 1 Star
Enjoyability: 1 Star
Total: 4.5 / 5 Stars
READ IT. GO. I RELEASE YOU.