Thursday, 1 November 2012

A Monster Calls - M's Review

A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness

A Monster Calls is about thirteen year old Conor whose divorced mother has terminal cancer. He has to sort a lot of things out for himself, there are bullies at school, and he has a controlling grandmother. On top of all this, Conor has a recurring nightmare but one night this is replaced by a new (but slightly less awful) nightmare. In this nightmare, a huge monster comes to him in the guise of a walking tree. The ‘Monster’ says there are four stories to be told before he can go away. 

A Monster Calls - Patrick Ness
Despite all the rave reviews, A Monster Calls didn’t appeal to either of us. We didn’t like the cover and we didn’t like the premise. And then it won the 2012 Carnegie medal. It still didn’t appeal to us but then Walker republished it with a different cover (the one pictured) and I thought we should give it a go.

I’m glad I did. I bought it and read it in one go. It was beautifully and cleverly written. From pretty much the start right through to the finish, this is a poignant read with quite a few chokers in it (however, the premise  does lend itself to tears so perhaps there is some borderline sentimentalism and some readers may find it a bit cloying). For me, I think that one of the charms of good middle grade fiction is that there are multiple layers so that the stories usually offer an innocence that is almost light-hearted but offers older readers poignant depth.

While this novel is very much about a young teenager having to deal with the implicit issues of living with a single mother who is battling with terminal cancer, the little issues about making mistakes, true friends, living with family and facing up to fears also come into play. Conor is a wonderful character from the very first pages. The ‘Monster’ and the telling of Four Stories provide a fairytale structure for the novel which didn’t appeal to me at first but might appeal to young readers or fantasy fans. And it does work quite well (some people will say it works beautifully). My two favourite paragraphs in the book are: an early one about what a grandmother should look like and how she should behave, and a later one featuring a note that Conor’s friend Lily sends to him.

I can see why this novel won the Carnegie. Like RJ Palacio's Wonder, this novel will appeal to young and old alike.

Publication details:
2012 edition, Walker, London, paperback
This copy: our own

1 comment:

  1. This book looks good. That is on my list to read. (lets hope i get there) :)


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