Sunday, May 15, 2011

A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness goes. Remember that reading slump that I've been in? I think I may have finally snapped out of it thanks to Mr. Ness. A Monster Calls reminded me that there are amazing books out there. Books that won't let you put it down. Books that will make you cry your eyes out. Books that will make you feel things you haven't felt in a long time. Books that stimulate your mind and give you a feast for the eyes as well. After reading Mr. Ness' four young adult books that are out now (he does have a couple of other books that I own but haven't read yet), I can see that he is a master at capturing human emotions. Not just capturing them, but relaying them to you and bringing you into the story as well. I didn't know what to expect with A Monster Calls. I didn't even know anything about the book. Just that it was based on an idea by Siobhan Dowd and was written by Mr. Ness. I did know that it would be engrossing as all of his books are. And I was warned that I should have plenty of tissues handy (which you should, by the way). A Monster Calls is, at it's surface, the story of Conor, his insecurities, his mother who is suffering with cancer, and a monster. As his mother's cancer progresses, a monster comes to visit Conor. The monster tells Conor three tales and expects a fourth from Conor when he is finished his three. Conor's story has to be the story he holds within him. The truth of things that he is afraid to tell. Aside from the time spent with the monster, we get to know Conor and all he struggles with. This is what hit me the most. The honesty of the book. Ness says himself in the novel: "Stories are important," the monster said. "They can be more important than anything. If they carry the truth." And that's one thing that Ness always shows us. The truth. And I think it's one of the reasons that his novels are so hard hitting. They take us to places that we don't always want to go. We live the stories with the characters and see that there is a bad side and a good side to everyone. But that having a "bad side" doesn't make us a bad person. That because something is universally acknowledged as being good, that it its taboo to act any other way does not make us a bad person if we don't always meet society's criteria. That it instead makes us human. You can imagine what Conor goes through watching his mom suffering with cancer. I'm not going to give anything away, but I can imagine that it was just as gruelling a story to write for Patrick Ness as it was for me to read. I love him for that. I love that he jumps into subject matters that so few other authors do. And this amazing story is accompanied with equally amazing art throughout the book. Here, look at a page: And that's just a page with a border illustration. There are two page spreads of amazing artwork throughout this book that capture the feel of the novel perfectly. This aspect of it actually reminded me a lot of Neil Gaiman's The Graveyard Book. In fact, Jim Kay's illustrations often brought to mind Dave McKean's illustrations. They are gorgeous and haunting and lend a perfect accompaniment to the novel. I can't give this book enough praise. Except to say that it's the best novel I've read this year. And it will forever remain in my heart. Ms. Dowd would have been proud. Thanks for the stories, Mr. Ness.

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