A Monster Calls, written by Patrick Ness, is a touching and often thought provoking novel that offers unique insight into how different people deal with the subject of grief, told through the fantasy genre. Although this book was something I preferred to read in spurts, and not something I couldn’t put down, I enjoyed it when I did pick it up to read. That’s not to say it is a light read, it’s far from it, but I thought prior to reading it I would be more engrossed with the story than what I was.
It deals with grief and sorrow in a way that doesn’t centre around the victim (Conor’s mother, a cancer patient), but instead makes the protagonist the person who loves the victim more than anyone else in the world. In this case, thirteen year old Conor. This provides a fresh perspective that shows mourning a loss of life from someone who is powerless to stop it, and the youth of the protagonist makes the words seem more vulnerable, yet with too much maturity for a child so young. Conor has had to grow up too quickly and see the worst things that life can do play out before his eyes, before his childhood is even over.
A character that mystified me was Conor’s grandmother. We only see her through Conor’s eyes, who perceives her as cold and fairly emotionally detached from Conor, but still clearly cares for him and his mother, her daughter. What I would have liked to read more about is what made her put up her emotional barriers with Conor, and why she does not attempt to put more effort into understanding him while he was acting out in such unusual ways. That being said, it is stated that “Conor’s grandma wasn’t like other grandmas”. She “wore tailored trouser suits, dyed her hair to keep out the grey, and said things that made no sense at all”. The fact that she still has a job suggests that perhaps family life just isn’t her priority, unlike the typical grandmother.
The book has moments of truly commendable imagery that is absolutely captivating to read, and can be so vividly imagined that it really does transport you to this world. For example, the monster comes alive through the words; the use of the senses personifying the ‘yew tree’ really does make it become almost monstrous. The powerful vocabulary makes it easy to visualise without it needing to be translated onto film, however it would be interesting to see a visual version just to see how closely it relates to what I interpret its appearance to look like. Because of this, I was very excited to learn that there’s a 2016 film version of this film, which unusually I did not hear about before I purchased this novel.
The mixture of both the real and the unreal in the book made it an interesting read. The real refers to the problems and heartaches of reality. In this case, the consequences of cancer and loneliness. It is interesting how delicately fantasy ties into this, as the monster is placed in the same world that we are in right now. I highly recommend this book to anyone, of all ages, and advise you to keep tissues at the ready.
THANK YOU FOR READING!