Monday, January 28, 2013

A Monster Calls

A Monster Calls
Patrick Ness

I'm experiencing a real bookseller's conundrum as I begin this review. I love this book, but who is the right person for it? It is the story of Conor, a young man whose mother is sick with cancer, maybe even dying from it. Her illness has dragged on for years but she keeps a brave face, telling her son again and again that she will be okay. He feels a growing distress which manifests as intensifying trouble with friends and school. Then one night just past midnight the large yew tree from across the way pulls up its roots and strides towards his bedroom window. The yew is an ancient, wild presence like the Green Man who is wise about the deep things, light and dark.

He tells Conor that he will visit three times, and on each occasion tell a story. In return, he expects Conor to tell him his true story, which turns out to be a recurring nightmare. A Monster Calls is a strange tale that at some times feels quite magical and at others grittily realistic. It is emotionally poignant and doesn't shy away from the suffering wrought by serious illness, and yet there is solace here too. Who is going to read it--an emotionally mature young adult, an adult who has a penchant for magical YA fiction, maybe even someone who does hospice work? Strongly recommended for the right person.

P.S. The beautiful pen and ink artwork throughout the book by Jim King really enhances the overall impact of the work. It is a novel with illustrations, not a graphic novel.

P.P.S. The story was originally the idea of Siobhan Dowd, a human rights campaigner and author who died at 47 from breast cancer.

- Ken

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