Book Review: A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness

5 out of 5 stars

During a recent trip to the theater we saw a preview for a movie called “A Monster Calls” starring Sigourney Weaver, Felicity Jones, Toby Kebbell, Lewis MacDougall, and Liam Neeson. I had never heard of this story before that, but the preview intrigued me.

A couple of weeks later I was in a book store and I came across the novel written by Patrick Ness. I picked it up and added it to the stack of books I am reading through – I have just finished it. This is one that is going to stick with me for a bit. I had a friend pass away earlier this year after battling very aggressive cancer, leaving behind two kids very close in age to our main character. Being someone who battles chronic illness and looking to my own son, this sort of thing always worries me. So on these two fronts the book hit me especially hard. I don’t tend to read these types of books in order to keep my stress and worry down, but figuring it was a Young Adult book I thought I would be fine with it. It might have been a little too soon for me. This book is brilliantly written and while it made me sad, I loved reading every word of it.

The story features Conor O’Malley. He is a 13-year old boy who’s parents are divorced and his mum has been battling cancer. His dad lives in America with his new family but they live in England. Conor is a good kid and does everything he can to take care of his mum. He has been a good student but is bullied at school and is tired of everyone else treating him differently and too nicely because his mum is so sick. He is angry but doesn’t completely understand his feelings. One night the yew tree that they see outside the windows of their house comes walking and calls Conor outside. He tells Conor that he in fact called him, though Conor doesn’t know how he did. He doesn’t know if this is a dream or real. The Monster (the tree) tells him that he will tell Conor 3 stories and at the end, Conor will have to tell him the truth. His truth. Conor doesn’t understand this, but the story progresses and his mum gets sicker and he starts dealing with more feelings and the realization of the impending outcome. He moves in with his grandmother and his dad comes from America to help, but nothing is helping and he looks more and more to the tree for the assurances he needs.

This story is full of love and hope, but also of loss and sadness. The story is full of is bravery too – Mum is brave, grandma is brave and Conor not only is asked to be brave, but is perhaps the bravest despite his completely shattered heart. The story is written in a way kids will be able to relate to, but the subject matter is heavy and any fears of losing a parent might be something kids on the younger side could struggle with. Suggested age for reading this is 12 years old and and above. I would say that feels about right to me so kids can grasp what is happening here and be able to work through what they are reading and the feelings it brings up.

Based on my own experiences this year, it helped me see some of what my friend might have been going through. I understand a bit more about what her kids may have gone through. It has opened up my mind about what others may feel as their loved ones are sick and hurting and how they may or may not want to be treated. It is shaping how I will respond to them in the future as well. Hopefully we can all help each other in more effective ways through hard situations. Hopefully we can help each other be brave no matter what we are going through.

This book is a really fast read, but it is going to stick with you for a while. I highly recommend it and look forward to the movie which will be hitting theaters in the Fall of 2016.

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