A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness

I’m still trying to recover from this one — and that’s a very good thing. This story — this tale — of Conor O’Malley and the monster he has called (or perhaps has called him) is 2 parts heart-breaking, 3 parts heart-repairing, a couple dashes of enchanting, and garnished with the miraculous. Conor is awakened at 12:07 to a monster calling for him. This monster is the yew tree from outside his window, and it doesn’t frighten Conor one bit. And why should it? He’s seen much scarier monsters.

We find ourselves lost in a fantasy-but-really-reality world of Conor’s mom, who is battling cancer, Conor’s grandma, who is taking care of the house and Conor, and Conor’s monster, who is pushing Conor to tell his own story by telling three of its own. There is a certain magic to the monster, or so it seems, yet it is at the same time nothing special. Therein lies the secret wonder to A Monster Calls.

I could not put this book down, except when I needed to (to sleep, to eat, to teach). It grabbed me from the beginning and I did not let go, until I had to. And when I had to, I was okay doing so. I cannot imagine this story being any better. The flowing language almost reads like a prose poem. The images it creates are astounding. And then there’s the book itself.

Illustrated periodically with pictures and images that perfectly match the tone of the text, the book looked perfect in my hands. The pages are also thick and heavy — so much so that the book is quite deceptively weighty. This is perfect for the story being told. It’s as if everyone — author, story-teller, illustrator, publisher, manufacturer — was working towards the perfection of this book as a book. If they didn’t reach it, they came awfully close.

There isn’t anyone I would not recommend this to. The cancer story may be too close to home for some, but perhaps the ending of the book will be that much more meaningful and needed to them. It is a very quick read, despite being a shade over 200 pages. I cannot imagine someone being disappointed in this book.

Rating: 5 out of 5 fish. 

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