Monday, September 16, 2013

A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness (inspired by an idea from Siobhan Dowd)

This is one of the titles that was selected for the local middle school system's Battle of the Books. I've wanted to pick it up for a while, as the cover is very intriguing, and it says something about being a horror novel. That surprised me, as I usually think of the list of books as being serious writing; horror doesn't strike me as being the sort of genre that would be chosen.

After reading the book, I see how wrong I was. It's a powerful book, disguised as a young boy being haunted/terrorized by a mythical creature. Conor O'Malley has nightmares, horrible nightmares. When a monster shows up one night at seven minutes past midnight, Conor isn't surprised. He's also not scared; he explains to the monster (a sort of enormous evil tree-man) that he's seen worse. And he has...

Conor's mom has cancer. She's undergoing treatment yet again, as the previous rounds of chemo don't seem to have worked. His maternal grandmother is a cold fish, someone who doesn't understand the young boy and doesn't seem to want to. His father lives in America with his new family (I'm doing this a couple months after I read the book, so bear with me - I think Conor lives in the U.K.) He really doesn't have any friends at school, so there's no one for him to turn to, no one to talk with, about his mom's illness. No one except the monster who shows up just after midnight.

It is mature subject matter, which has some questioning if kids/teens should read it. Having lost my own mother recently to cancer, I think if the reader has gone through the same thing, then yes, they should read it. It's powerful, this idea of what is true and what is not, that things are not always as they appear to be, and that the best lies we tell are the ones we tell ourselves.

And I would recommend having a box of tissues handy.

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