A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness

Even though I didn’t fall in love with Patrick Ness’ The Knife of Never Letting Go, I enjoyed it enough to read his other books. I’ve seen rave reviews of A Monster Calls so I decided to request a copy from NetGalley when it became available there. I finished reading this book weeks ago and I’ve let a draft of my review rest in my dashboard, hoping that I’ll be able to write something substantial while the dust settles. I admit defeat, nothing that I can write will do this book justice.

Here’s the summary from Patrick Ness’ website:

A Monster CallsThe monster showed up just after midnight. As they do.

But it isn’t the monster Conor’s been expecting. He’s been expecting the one from his nightmare, the one he’s had nearly every night since his mother started her treatments, the one with the darkness and the wind and the screaming…

The monster in his back garden, though, this monster is something different. Something ancient, something wild. And it wants the most dangerous thing of all from Conor.

It wants the truth.

This book should come with a warning: “Avoid reading this in public places because it will make you cry.” I should have known better than to read A Monster Calls in Starbucks while waiting for friends. I figured I was immune to Patrick Ness’ emotional punches since I remained tear-free while reading The Knife of Never Letting Go. I was wrong. I don’t think I’ve ever mentioned it here on the blog but back in January 2007, my dad was diagnosed with stage three lung cancer. Five months later, he passed away. I don’t talk about it here because I used to think it’s too personal but I want to share why this particular book resonated with me. To say that I could relate to Connor is an understatement. I wanted to go inside the book and hug him to let him know that he isn’t alone in his pain. And I’m pretty sure I’m not the only one who felt that way. In a world where cancer is becoming more common, I feel like it has touched the lives of almost everyone – be it through a family member or a friend. I’ve lost count of the number of wakes and funerals that I’ve attended because someone lost his or her battle to cancer. I’m thankful that Patrick Ness decided to write this novel because it articulates what so many of us can never put into words – all the anger, the hopelessness, the fear and yes, the denial because accepting the truth is never an easy thing. And that’s what the monster wants from Connor: for him to reveal the truth because he can never move on if he can’t even admit it to himself.

This a contemporary middle grade or younger YA novel and only the presence of the monster adds a touch of whimsy to the story. You don’t have to be a Patrick Ness fan or a middle grade/young adult reader to appreciate this book. What Connor experiences is something that every human being will understand. You know that feeling when a book does a better job of describing how you feel? A Monster Calls is that kind of book. Just thinking about it while writing my review brings to the surface all the emotions that I felt while reading Connor’s story. Ever since I started the blog, I’ve become drawn to well-written, emotional reads that deal with grief and maybe it’s because of my own experience, maybe I’m trying to find the words to illustrate how I felt in the books that I read. I’m fond of quoting C.S. Lewis, “We read to know we’re not alone” because it’s true. A Monster Calls makes me feel that I’m not alone. So thank you, Patrick Ness, I know you already have numerous fans but I just want to say that you’ve gained another one and I will read everything that you’ve written and everything else that you will write. I need to buy an actual copy of this book so I can read it over and over again.

Other reviews:
Book Harbinger
The Book Smugglers
Coffeespoons
Ficsation
One More Page

The Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness

I think I’ve mentioned in the blog before that I’m not a big fan of dystopian books but since so many blogging buddies loved the Chaos Walking trilogy, I decided to give it a try. I received all three books for my birthday this year.

Here’s the summary from Patrick Ness’ website:

Todd Hewitt is the last boy in Prentisstown.

But Prentisstown isn’t like other towns. Everyone can hear everyone else’s thoughts in a constant, overwhelming, never-ending Noise. There is no privacy. There are no secrets.

Or are there?

Just one month away from the birthday that will make him a man, Todd unexpectedly stumbles upon a spot of complete silence.

Which is impossible.

Prentisstown has been lying to him.

And now he’s going to have to run…

I think the UK editions are so pretty, look:

The Knife of Never Letting Go is a very absorbing read. Each chapter end was written in such a way that it encourages you to keep on reading and I think that’s the mark of an excellent writer. Other people warned me that the language might take some getting used to. Todd’s lack of education is clearly reflected in the way he narrates but that didn’t bother me at all. Patrick Ness created a very intriguing world with this trilogy and it reminded me somewhat of Sharon Shinn’s Samaria. Todd was believable as a boy on the cusp of manhood, as innocent as his foster fathers can keep him and clueless about his town’s past. He has no idea of what’s real and what’s not in his world. When he discovers something unexpected, he has no choice but to run, together with his accidental friend, Viola. My favorite character in the entire book is Manchee, Todd’s dog. I feel like if dogs could communicate with their masters, they’d act exactly like Manchee. At first I found him hilarious because he acted the same way as Dug, the talking dog in the Pixar film Up with his constant shouts of “Squirrel!” before running after the smaller animal. Manchee is a steadfast companion and the best friend any boy could ever have.

To be honest, I was hoping I’d love this just as much as my blogging friends did but that didn’t happen (please don’t hate me!). I really liked it but it didn’t make me emotional, which is what other readers experienced. Others had really violent reactions to this book: they cried, they wanted to throw it against a wall, they had to pause before they could continue reading. I feel like I was more of a casual observer and I was kind of detached from the characters instead of being fully engrossed. And I can’t even explain why. There wasn’t anything specific that pulled me out of the story, I just wasn’t sucked in. I’m starting to think that maybe I’m missing the dystopian gene? Why do I end up just liking the post-apocalyptic books that others love? But then again, I loved The Hunger Games and The Giver so maybe it really is just a matter of taste. Like I said, this is a really good book with excellent writing and I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend it to fans of dystopian lit, I just wanted to explain why I didn’t love it. I’m still looking forward to reading the other two books in the trilogy since I already have copies and I am curious about what will happen to Todd and the rest of the characters. I just don’t think I will be as enthusiastic about this series as the rest of the fans are.

Other reviews:
See Michelle Read
One More Page
Good Books and Good Wine
The Crooked Shelf

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This book is one of my entries in the Once Upon a Time challenge.