And then, one night, a different monster comes to him.
While he's still awake.
The monster is going to tell Conor three stories.
And then, whether he wants to or not, Conor is going to tell the monster a fourth story. Not just any story, but the truth. His truth.
Oh, Patrick Ness. You jerk.
I don't really mean that, of course.
But I have the flu. So I already feel terrible.
And then I read A Monster Calls and it made me cry so hard that I got a bloody nose.
I knew I was in trouble when I teared up just opening it: my last Siobhan Dowd book, and only partly hers, at that.
I knew I was in trouble when I was in tears after reading the Author's Note:
I felt — and feel — as if I've been handed a baton like a particularly fine writer had given me her story and said, "Go. Run with it. Make trouble." So that's what I tried to do. Along the way, I had only a single guideline: to write a book I think Siobhan would have liked. No other criteria could really matter.
I knew I was in trouble when seeing the dedication — For Siobhan — set me off again.
But that was nothing.
Because I hadn't even hit the actual story yet.
Every line of Patrick Ness' beautiful, deceptively simple prose Tells The Truth. The truth about the isolation of grief, about the anger that comes out of loss, the truth about guilt, and about how knowledge and logic have absolutely nothing to do with emotion.
A Monster Calls isn't a fable that features Everyman Characters To Make A Point: It's a story about people. Conor isn't just a stand-in for any random person experiencing heartbreak. He's a real, three-dimensional boy, with a real, three-dimensional life. His grandmother is a real person, as is his mother and his mostly-absent father and the people at school and everyone else in the book.
And, for that matter, the monster isn't just a mechanism for passing on platitudes: It's a true Wild Thing. Inhuman and eternal, but empathetic, like Marcus Zusak's Death.
Then there are the illustrations by Jim Kay, which are... well:
Fittingly untamed. There are more at his website.
Yes, it made me sob. Yes, it's beyond sad.
But it also made me laugh. Because sometimes, it's funny. And sometimes it's a bit scary. And like life, it's both predictable and unpredictable.
Beautifully written, gorgeously illustrated, a lovely design: It's easy to tell that the people behind the book love it just as much as it deserves to be loved.
Seriously, seriously, this is very much not one to be missed.
There's a blog tour going on right now for this book which I'm not technically a part of, but here's the list of links:
- 9/26 at Educating Alice
- 9/27 at I Read Banned Books
- 9/27 at Charlotte’s Library
- 9/28 at Cynsations
- 9/29 at the Ya Ya Yas
- 9/30 at YA Bibliophile
- 10/3 at Lisa the Nerd
- 10/4 at Milk and Cookies
- 10/5 at Waking Brain Cells
Book source: Review copy from the publisher.