A review of "A Monster Calls" by Patrick Ness influenced by Siobhan Dowd
|A Monster Calls written by Patrick Ness, inspired by Siobhan Dowd (2011) Illustrations by Jim Kay.
The books cover, and the Author’s Note is what pulled me into this book, and would not let me go, until the very end; Siobhan Dowd, another Y/A writer wrote four books in her lifetime. Two were published while she was still alive, and two posthumously after cancer ended her life. She was working on this fifth book, when she passed.
Author Patrick Ness was asked to take the premise, the beginning and characters created by Siobhan, and write a book. A tough job, but Mr. Ness was up to the task. He says, “I felt - and feel as if I’ve been handed a baton, like a particularly fine writer has given me her story and said, ‘Go. Run with it. Make trouble.’ So that’s what I tried to do. I had only a single guideline: to write a book I think Siobhan would have liked. No other criteria could really matter...”
Within the book; “A Monster Calls” there are many truths, wisdom and pain. The living go on, and here you will find morsels of words strung together, worth quoting and remembering. We never know when, how, or why we may call a Monster to help us see our own truth, and then convince us to speak it loudly
Conor O’Malley, is a young man who finds himself in the company of a monster that visits him. The Monster is an ancient Yew Tree that sits on a hillside, outside of the O’Malley’s home. When the Yew Tree first uproots to walk, and visits Conor in his room at night, Conor does not shrink in fear, but instead views the Monster with disdain. Having been through so much in the past few years of his short life; divorce, and his mother’s illness, he is emotionally drained.
As it is when the supernatural occurs in one’s life, proof is needed, that they may believe for themselves what they have witnessed. There is plenty of evidence that something strange has occurred. In his room, there is a mess of yew berries, leaves, and twigs. To keep some kind of order in his life, Conor simply cleans up the mess made by the Monster, hiding it in the trash, as not to upset his mother. He never is afraid of what the monster can do to him.
Conor is having a terrible time at this juncture of his life. His Mother has been ailing with cancer, and treatments, and attempting to put a positive spin on everything. Conor is trying to make sense of what course life has sent him on, and he begins taking lessons from the ancient Yew Tree, who is large, and loud and of course, a monster.
Throughout “A Monster Calls,” and over the course of a few weeks, the monster tells Conor three stories. The stories come from ancient times when the Yew Tree was young, into the modern day. The Yew Tree shows Conor many things, and proves that the Yew Tree contains within it’s makeup, healing properties.
When the monster convinces Conor that it was Conor who called the monster, and not the other way around, Conor is convinced it is to heal his Mother of cancer.
“ ‘You still do not know why you called me, do you?’ the monster asked. ‘You still do not know why I have come walking. It is not as if I do this every day, Conor O’Malley.”
During this tale, the monster abets Conor in destroying an entire room of his Grandmother’s home. Conor awaits the punishment he has coming, but everyone around him gives him sympathy instead. Except for the bullies, he has gotten a free pass, for his bad behavior and misdeeds for quite some time.
The three stories told by the Monster, the experience and changes that occur in Conor O’Malley’s life at this time, and truths learned, culminate in the last story to be told; by Conor. It is now Conor O’Malley who must speak a truth in order that he can heal, but he would rather die than speak a truth that has been buried in this young man since his mother fell ill.
Wisdom from the monster brings Conor to the edge of healing - isl Conor O’Malley be able to take that leap?.
“A Monster Calls,” is a book about family, health, truth and monsters. Sometimes truth is monstrous, and there are times when having to face the truth can create in us a need for something larger than ourselves to come and help.
“A Monster Calls” is a Young Adult book. It is an excellent read for any age.