March 3, 2014

Book Review: A Monster Calls

A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness
Inspired by an idea from Siobhan Dowd
Illustrated by Jim Kay

Syopsis from Shelfari: "The monster showed up just after midnight. As they do. But it isn't the monster Conor's been expecting. He's been expecting the one from his nightmare, the one he's had nearly every night since his mother started her treatments, the one with the darkness and the wind and the screaming...The monster in his back garden, though, this monster is something different. Something ancient, something wild. And it wants the most dangerous thing of all from Conor. It wants the truth."

I loved this book for so many reasons. 

First, because it made me cry. Although I'm a fairly sensitive soul, I don't often find myself moved to tears while reading. I can count the number of books that have extracted tears from me on one hand. Well, I COULD count them using one hand, until I read this book. This is a book about a boy in the process of loving his mother: of having to come to terms with losing her, and then having to find the strength to let her go. But that wasn't what made me cry. What made me cry was the way Patrick Ness weaves the story with brutal honesty, but also with a searing compassion that makes it funny as well as sad. It made me cry the kind of tears that are weighted down with the knowledge of recognition: of knowing that this story you're sad about isn't yours, but it holds so much that has or could be yours. I was pulled in completely, and was shown something that my mind and heart continues to return to. 

Second, because it had the feel of the best kind of fairy tale: dark, twisted, and beautiful. The language here is lyrical and rhythmic. It manages to be both haunting and occasionally funny. It begs to be read out loud. 

And third, there are the illustrations. The idea of a book accompanied by pictures brings to mind the kind of children's book that adults aren't meant to read. But it certainly doesn't FEEL like a children's book when you flip through these particular illustrations. It feels more like a work of art. These images are like a nightmare brought to life in ways that are both incredibly beautiful and a little disturbing. I have no idea what method the illustrator used to create these striking and textured images, but they literally took my breath away with every turn of the page. The monster reached out to me from the pages like things I've only encountered in dreams, the kind that feel both incredibly detailed and cloudy at the same time. This book reminded me of something that has continually pulled me towards work in illustrated publishing, but that I often ignore in fiction works: images can weave among the words, enhancing and giving them new life.

A beautiful, moving, one-of-a-kind read that I won't be forgetting in a hurry.


  1. Oh this sounds very interesting. Another one to add to my reading list. :)

    1. Warning, Evie: it's going to make you cry!