Last year, I had the pleasure of meeting author Patrick Ness in person when he was one of the featured YA authors at Wordstock Festival. I loved hearing him speak, and eagerly snatched up the first book in his Chaos Walking trilogy for him to sign. But I was particularly intrigued hearing him talk about his next book — something that came from an idea by the late Siobhan Dowd, which he’d been asked to complete after her untimely death.
Now completed, that book is A Monster Calls, and I couldn’t be a bigger fan. Ness has done wonderful things with the ideas Dowd created, and no doubt she’d be proud and pleased with his final creation. I actually read it in a single sitting, and then bawled my eyes out for the last ten pages or so — something that hasn’t happened since I read The Time Traveler’s Wife.
A Monster Calls tells the story of 13-year-old Conor, who is approached by a monster at 12:07 — but it’s not the monster Conor is expecting; not the one from his nightmare. This is a different monster, one which promises to tell Conor three stories and in return he wants one thing; the most dangerous thing of all: the truth. Because it is this truth that is lurking in Conor’s real nightmare, the one he is afraid to face. The one that deals with his mother and her treatments and the reality of his life. But when a monster comes calling, it’s hard to ignore him.
A Monster Calls is one of the most gorgeous, heartbreaking, sweet, and poignant books I’ve ever read. It touches on the very heart of human emotion, and helps remind us of what’s really important in life. It carries a message that is simple and true, without ever once being overbearing.
Ness’s narrative is timeless — weaving a story that will speak to readers young and old alike, and everywhere in between. In some ways, A Monster Calls is reminiscent of Neil Gaiman’s The Graveyard Book, and yet I feel that comparison is unfair … because Gaiman is such an icon, and yet A Monster Calls really is wholly unique and not at all like anything else out there.
The true beauty of A Monster Calls is that we can all relate to Conor’s situation. We may not have experienced the same hardships as this boy, but we’ve all faced our own monsters and nightmares — and the courage Conor learns through the monster’s stories is something we can all grow from.
Besides the contents of the narrative itself, A Monster Calls is simply a beautiful book. The illustrations by Jim Kay are breathtakingly gorgeous — simple yet poignant, and perfectly suited to the story. And kudos to whoever at Candlewick Press that is behind the book’s entire design: the printing, packaging, layout, etc. It is simply smashing.
I cannot recommend this book enough — it is by far one of the best things I have read not just this year, but ever. Do yourself a favor, and grab a copy today.
Here is the book’s spectacular trailer: