I read A Monster Calls written by Patrick Ness (however, the idea conceived by a different writer who succumbed to cancer before she could write it). I believe that the book is actually middle grade lit more than YA lit but I think it’s incredibly well crafted and deals with some dark, dark stuff. Don’t turn your nose up in scorn. This book will destroy you…in the best way possible…kind of? I think I’m still a little damaged by it.
A boy named Conor is dealing with his mother’s terminal cancer. She’s been seeking chemotherapy and other treatments but it appears that nothing is working and that it’s getting to the point where Conor and his mother need to think about the future. Conor feels his mother will get better, but she’s less sure. Soon after his mother’s relapse, a monster (a monster made of a yew tree no less, which made me look up the symbolism of the yew–and it has a weird paradox–longevity and also death) appears to Conor at 12:07. Each visit escalates with both story and deeds (I don’t want to give anything away) and you can sense something building.
Conor struggles in every relationship he has besides the ones he has with the monster and with his mother. Otherwise, he’s estranged from his father, has a tense relationship with his grandmother (because he knows that she will be his caretaker if and when his mother dies) and he’s being bullied at school where these cruel kids actually reference the fact that his mom is dying. People don’t really do that, do they? Please tell me they don’t, or just don’t tell me.
I loved this book. It’s richly written, the relationship between the monster and Conor and their discussions are deep. Like, “whoa” deep and they force any individual, regardless of age to seriously contemplate things that we don’t necessarily want to think about. For example, I submit to you this quote from the monster, “Your mind will believe comforting lies while also knowing the painful truths that makes those lies necessary. And your mind will punish you for it” ( Ness). There are also funny parts, laugh out loud funny because they are entirely unexpected.
If you do read this book, I recommend that you set aside a few hours to just process what you put yourself through (if you’re anything like me). The ending is inevitable but it’s Conor’s realization of the inevitable and finally his acceptance of it, that made me cry for at least a half an hour after setting the book down. It’s a book I feel will resonate with me forever;sometimes providing comfort,and sometimes twisting the knife in my heart.