A Monster Callsby Patrick Ness
The British writer Siobhan Dowd won the Carnegie Medal posthumously in 2009 for her last book, Bog Child. She’d started working on another, but died of breast cancer before she had started writing. Her outline was handed to Patrick Ness, author of the acclaimed Chaos Walking trilogy and he wrote the book she didn’t have time to. A Monster Calls went on to win the 2012 CILIP Carnegie Medal and the Kate Greenaway Award for its illustrator Jim Kay – the first time a book has achieved both.
The monster showed up just after midnight. As they do.
Conor was awake when it came.
He’d had a nightmare. Well not a nightmare. The nightmare. The one he’d been having a lot lately. The one with the darkness and the wind and the screaming. The one with the hands slipping from his grasp, no matter how hard he tried to hold on. The one that always ended with-
“Go away,” Conor whispered into the darkness of his bedroom, trying to push the nightmare back, not let it follow him into the world of waking. “Go away now.”
He glanced over at the clock his mum had put on his bedside table.12.7. Seven minutes past midnight. Which was late for a school night, late for a Sunday, certainly.
He’d told no one about the nightmare. Not his mum, obviously, but no one else either, not his dad in their fortnightly (or so) phone call, definitely not his grandma, and no one at school. Absolutely not.
Whatever happened in the nightmare was something no one else ever needed to know.
Conor blinked groggily at his room, then he frowned. There was something he was missing. He sat up in his bed, waking a bit more. The nightmare was slipping from him, but there was something he couldn’t put his finger on, something different, something-
He listened, straining against the silence, but all he could hear was the occasional tick from the empty downstairs or a rustle of bedding from his mum’s room next door.
And then something. Something he realized was the thing that had woken him.
Someone was calling his name.
Conor is thirteen. He’s alone and doesn’t know what to do. His mum has cancer, and the treatments don’t seem to be working any more. His dad has a new family across the pond; his grandma is too un-grandma-ish; and he’s being bullied at school. It’s no surprise he is confused and angry with life and has nightmares.
When the monster comes for him, he is unfazed by it’s appearance, but scared at its purpose. This personification of earth magic wants to tell him stories, to show him that life isn’t black and white, that good things can come from bad. It wants him to acknowledge the truth.
This is a beautiful book. The original illustrated edition has the brooding monochrome drawings by Jim Kay which are so evocative of the elemental tree man monster and Conor’s dilemma.
It is a simple story, gut-wrenching, yet in its way, heart-warming in its bravery, with a young protagonist that is entirely believable and in desperate need of help. Ness has taken Dowd’s idea and run with it to create an exceptional novel that can resonate with all ages, and especially with anyone who’s ever lost someone close to them.
By its inevitable end I was blubbering like a baby, remembering my own mum who died from breast cancer a couple of years ago. It felt good to cry. This book helped. (10/10)
* * * * *
I bought my original illustrated copy, and the publisher, Walker Books, kindly sent me the new edition – thank you.
To explore further on Amazon UK, please click below:
A Monster Calls: Illustrated Paperbackby Patrick Ness
A Monster Calls (non illustrated)by Patrick Ness
Bog Child by Siobhan Dowd