02 May 2011

Book of the Week (98): "A Monster Calls" by Patrick Ness, with illustrations by Jim Kay

A Monster Calls is the extraordinary new novel from Patrick Ness. It is based on the story idea of Siobhan Dowd, a much loved, Carnegie Medal winning author, who sadly lost her battle with cancer before she could write the book. Patrick Ness has taken that kernel of an idea and created an impressive tale, which will stay with me as one of the most insightful, heartbreaking and powerful novels I’ve ever read.

Having been somewhat in awe of Ness’s ‘Chaos Walking Trilogy’ I was desperate to get my hands on this new novel. Desperate and a little nervous, wondering how he could possibly follow it. I was not disappointed. A Monster Calls is not at all like his ‘Chaos Walking Trilogy’, yet it is equally unique and spectacular. The emotional intensity and skilful storytelling once again keeps you turning page after page until you finish and sit stunned.

Here is the story of Conor, a teenage boy trying to cope with the likely loss of his mother to cancer. With his father now living in America with his new family, Conor has to be grown up and brave as his Mum battles her way through treatments. And then a monster comes to call, but it’s not the monster he’s expecting. This one isn’t nearly as terrifying as the one that visits his nightly nightmare - ‘the one with the darkness and the wind and the screaming’. Yet this one is ancient and wild, it tells him stories and it demands the truth from Conor.

With a style reminiscent of folklore story telling and dense with symbolism, Ness captures the confusion and pain of Conor’s experience incredibly well, providing a depth of understanding to teenage grief that I haven’t before encountered in fiction.

Hauntingly beautiful illustrations by Jim Kay add extra depth and intensity to this affecting tale. As Kay says on his website ‘Get hold of a copy, hide yourself away, and throw yourself between the rollers of an emotional grinder’.

Recommended by Tessa Brechin


Anonymous said...

I am also a big fan of Patrick Ness and his Chaos Walking trilogy, and I cannot wait to read this book! I didn't know very much about it though,but you've given a good bit of info about it and now I'm all the more excited to read it! But I live in America so I'll have to wait months and months more to read it!

Pauline Fisk said...

This is a great review. I'm going straight out to look for it. It's one of those books that suddenly everybody's talking about. I love mystery and magic realism, and can't wait to see what Patrick Ness has done with it.