We’ve seen a lot of YA books turning into movies in the past few years, which is generally great because movies tend to draw people into reading its source material. I hope that this will also be the case for Patrick Ness’ A Monster Calls book.
Which is well-deserved, in this case, because I thoroughly enjoyed reading this. Technically it’s a children’s book, if I recall correctly, but it did have some nominations for Young Adult awards, so I’m slipping it in my blog as well because more people need to read this.
Why, you ask? First off, a thing of utmost importance to note is that the monster’s voice is described as having “a monstrous quality to it, wild and untamed.”
And the monster in the upcoming movie is voiced by Liam Neeson.
And I read every line of the monster in the book in his voice. There, I rest my case: now go get the book so you can read about a monster with Liam Neeson’s voice.
Oh, you mean Liam Neeson hasn’t quite convinced you to pick up the book yet?
That’s a risky move right there, right below kidnapping Liam Neeson’s daughter. But okay, that’s cool, I respect that. I fear for your life, but I respect that. So I guess now I have to give you the summary:
There’s a monster in Connor O’Malley’s backyard that visits him during midnight. But this is a different type of monster; not the terrifying one in Connor’s dreams, nightmares he had been getting ever since his mother first began her cancer treatment.
No, this monster might even be more dangerous, because it wants only one thing from Connor: it wants him to tell a story of the truth…
This is not your average, feel-good modern fairytale.
Never mind that the monster kind of looks like the loyal, self-sacrificing Groot:
Always remember that it’s still, actually, a monster:
And I love how throughout the story it maintained a general sense of ancient, fearsome quality to it, even if at first Connor didn’t fear it at all. There’s something feral and cruel about the monster, but at the same time, tender and gentle. It’s a contradiction, much like one of the themes of the story: that people are not all good, and not all bad, and that sometimes bad things happen for no reason at all.
And as you can probably tell from that last line…
This is not a happy book.
But within it is a story that needs to be told. There are fantasy elements to it, no doubt, in the form of the monster appearing and telling Connor three stories, in exchange for Connor telling him his own story afterwards. The monster also appears often, helping Connor wreck havoc mostly, although he’s also sometimes there to comfort Connor. But the fantasy is excellently entwined with the reality of the book: that this is, essentially, a story of Connor struggling with his feelings towards his mother and her cancer.
To top it off, his dad has a new family and is now living in another country, he absolutely cannot stand his grandmother, and he’s being bullied at school. Either that, or he’s treated as if he’s invisible. And all these struggles are intermingled into the truth that he keeps denying to himself, but that he needs to tell the monster. Or else he’ll get ripped apart and eaten, probably. Most likely.
I won’t give out spoilers, but let me tell you: it’s not a happy truth.
It will probably make you cry.
It’s all about a boy who’s struggling with the effects of his mom’s cancer, after all. I’ve read a lot of award-nominated and award-winning books about children and death, and this is one of the more unique ones, grounded in truthful reality as much as its fantasy elements enhance that reality instead of distract from it.
Because Connor isn’t a perfect, angelic boy who is So Strong and SelflessTM in the face of adversity. He doesn’t deal with problems well, he makes wrong choices, and he pushes away those who try to help him. Which makes it all the more real, because though he’s sometimes insufferable, he’s only still just a kid carrying a weight too heavy on his shoulders. And he deals with grief and guilt and everything else just like a kid would.
Sometimes even just like a grown-up would, really.
The book doesn’t shy away from hardships and suffering and the truth that sometimes, life kind of sucks.
The monster tells Connor three stories before he gets a chance to tell his own. And seriously, these stories have pretty brutal truths within them. Connor himself is puzzled and frustrated by the stories because, and probably like us, he’s more used to black and white versions of fairytales. Tales where evil queens are horrible to the core, and princes are noble and loyal and selfless, and grumpy, terrible people deserve every punishment they can get.
And as the monster says, some stories don’t have happy endings.
A Monster Calls is unashamed in its truthfulness, and how it teaches me that I need to face my own truths for me to become a better person. And sometimes, I have to accept the truth even if it’s an ugly one.
And that’s what this book is: it’s about facing things and accepting them for what they are. And it’s sometimes the hardest thing to do, but at the same time it’s facing that truth that can also, surprisingly, bring you to a better place in your life so that you can truly be healed.
The monster put it excellently, and it’s with his quote that I’ll end the review:
If you speak the truth, the monster whispered in his ear, you will be able to face whatever comes.
My rating: (5 / 5)
A Monster Calls will be showing in cinemas on October 2016. In the meantime, you can watch the trailer below! Or you can buy the book on Amazon.