A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness

A Monster Calls

Rating: ★★★★★

Genre: Middle Grade/Young Adult literature, fiction

Medium: Paperback, advanced reader’s copy

Synopsis: Conor has been plagued by two things: a recurring nightmare, and his sick mother.  Every night, at 12:07, Conor wakes up from a nightmare.  But this night, it’s different–it’s a different nightmare, one that’s significantly less scary, and one that looks like a yew tree.  The monster is there to tell Conor three tales, in exchange for a story when he is all done.  But what happens when Conor’s mom suddenly takes a turn for the worse?

Review: If I hadn’t finished this book in a public space, I would have bawled my eyes out.  I feel as though I state in many of my reviews about middle grade novels just why the novel is so important for both the child and parent to read–because the truth of the matter is that many middle grade and young adult novels focus on so many aspects of life that I haven’t seen as often in adult books.

This book really hit home for me, so it might be a bit difficult to do an objective review.

From the beginning, I knew that the monster was really a metaphor for grief.  What I didn’t know, however, was how well it was portrayed in the novel.  The monster is a nightmare–that’s all it is.  But Conor still wakes up and finds leaves and pieces of bark in his room, despite his window being closed.  So then, is the monster real, or is it not?  And the same questions can be applied to grief.  How real is grief if nobody else sees it?

Each of the tales the monster offers has a specific lesson to it, though it’s never spelled out immediately to Conor or the reader.  This gap between tale and lesson gives the reader a chance to think about what the tales mean, and how it might just apply to them personally.  For me, the second tale was my favorite–a tale about destruction.  When Conor helps the monster destroy the nightmare-fueled church only to realize he was actually singlehandedly destroying his grandmother’s sitting room, I was equally horrified and proud of Conor.  Horrified, because, well, he just effectively destroyed an entire room, and proud because oh my god I want to do that, too.  I think many people don’t realize not only how effective it is to destroy something, but how much grieving people want to destroy something.  I mean, why not–something else in your life has already been destroyed, right?  Granted, I don’t speak for all grieving people, just myself.

And, of course, Conor feels all alone.  He has others who understand what he’s going through, like his grandmother and his father, but that doesn’t matter.  He feels alone.  And that’s not just some self-isolation thing that Conor’s doing in order to appear tough on the outside, it’s a very real thing.  Additionally, people treat him differently, which is also a very real thing.  When you want to have just…….one singular sense of normalcy in your life but can’t have it because everybody’s weirdly pitying you or people you haven’t talked to in a long time are saying how sorry they are, it’s a bit bizarre, and not in the least bit normal.  And that’s all he wants: normal.

So, basically what I’m trying to get here is that if you haven’t experienced grief, are pre-grieving (yes, totally a thing!), or grieving, this book is definitely for you.  It will make you laugh and cry in all the right places, and will teach you some very good ways on how to cope with what you’re feeling.

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