Newest Review: ... the head of the reader fortunate enough to have not yet faced the type of situation it tackles, it will just be a story about nightmares ... more
You MUST read this book
A Monster Calls - Patrick Ness
Member Name: walsha11
A Monster Calls - Patrick Ness
Advantages: Stunning writing, incredible illustrations, concept
I heard about this book just after it was published in May of this year. It is the first book to ever win both the Carnegie and Kate Greenaway awards and so, as a children's bookseller, I knew I had to take notice. 'A Monster Calls' is aimed at teenagers (generally considered 12 +) but I think could easily be read and enjoyed by both younger and older audiences.
The book is written by Patrick Ness, illustrated by Jim Kay and adapted from an original idea by Siobhan Dowd. Now, when you hear about something that brings together a group of such wildly talented people the expectations are extremely high. Patrick Ness is best known for his Chaos Walking trilogy (which I haven't read but plan to) and has a wide selection of book awards to his name. Jim Kay is an illustrator who has worked for the Tate Gallery and though I am not familiar with any of his other work this book serves as a testament to his incredible skill. And lastly, Siobhan Dowd is a highly acclaimed writer and also the first author ever posthumously awarded the Carnegie medal. This really is the coming together of a spectacular trio and the book well represents their incredible talents.
The reason for the book being written is both interesting and incredibly sad. Siobhan Dowd came up with the original idea for the book during her battle with cancer. She was never able to actually write the book she had planned as she unfortunately passed away in 2009. Patrick Ness was then approached about writing the book using Siobhan's idea, and having loved her writing he agreed. Jim Kay was brought on board to do the illustrations for this magical book and the end product is simply breathtaking.
The book is about a teenage boy called Connor, whose mother is suffering from cancer. When the book begins she is going through radiation treatment for the second time. Her and Connor live alone, his father having moved to America and re-married many years before. Connor has few friends at school and the little contact he has with his peers is either altercations with Harry and his cronies or arguments with Lily who spread the news of his mother's illness. Connor hates the world, and understandably so because he is taking on the role of the adult in his household while still needing to be the child that he is. During the night a monster comes to visit Connor and lays down a set of rules. He is going to tell Connor three stories and in return Connor will tell him a fourth, one that tells his truth. Each story reveals a little more about the monster's purpose to the reader whilst totally perplexing young Connor. As the book progresses so does his mother's illness. Eventually she is taken to hospital and Connor is moved to his Grandmother's house, which he hates. A fly-by visit from his father and frequent 'talks' from both of these adults take their toll on Connor who is optimistic about his mother getting better. I won't spoil the entire ending for you but throughout the book Connor is visited by a terrible nightmare that shocks him out of his sleep. In the final story, Connor's, he must tell the monster the truth about his vision.
The book is peppered by stunning illustration creates by Jim Kay. As far as I can tell these are prints and etchings which are done exclusively in black and white. The effect is beautiful - they have this dark, ominous quality to them which perfectly encapsulates Connor's mood and the visitations of the Monster. Most teenagers I think would be reluctant to pick up a book with illustrations because they seem a little juvenile. However, these are adult illustrations - they are dark and scary and add a whole new level to meaning to Patrick Ness' words.
The books speaks of truth, it emphasises the importance of family and honesty in exceptional circumstances such as Connor's. It also explores the role of teachers and peers in the life of a child experiencing such a degree of turmoil in their private life. The monster represents the need in all of us to deal with out emotional problems and to find an outlet for pain. The metaphor is truly original and insightful - and the writing, though harrowing is truly exceptional.
This book costs £8.99 (although I do get a discount because of my job...) which as far as I am concerned is an amazing price for such a magnificent book. This isn't the kind of book you will be taking to the charity shop after you've read it, this is a simply stunning illustrated edition and definitely something I will keep forever and hopefully return to in years to come.
The message of the book is an important one and the delivery is affecting. I cannot recommend this enough, for children, teens, adults, anyone really. It will definitely be a book you keep for many, many years and one which I will avidly recommend in and outside of work.
A stunning, breathtaking, masterpiece of a book - for anyone, for everyone.
Summary: An exceptional book from a trio of talents.