Conor O’Malley is a thirteen-year-old boy living in modern England. Conor is haunted on a nightly basis by a terrible nightmare in which he wakes up bathed in sweat, shaking with fear. A night comes where he has a different nightmare, and a yew tree in his yard comes alive, calling his name. Conor is actually relieved that the terrifying nightmare has been replaced, but he’s also annoyed that this not-so-scary monster is just that – not scary. The monster wants to tell Conor three stories, with a fourth that Conor tells, which the monster dubs “the truth”.
Conor’s mother is dying of cancer, and his world is turned upside down with change. As a result, he gets unwanted attention at school, whether it comes in the form of comfort from teachers or from bullying by kids who are too young to know better.
A Monster Calls is a deeply moving tale about the reality of death and the fear of the loss of a loved one. At its heart, it’s incredibly depressing. Cancer fucking sucks. Ness is masterful in his writing and Conor is easy to empathize with, especially if someone in your life has been lost to cancer or is still fighting it. The story is very real, and the grief, pain, and depression are palpable. It’s an eye-opener – it reveals the awful truth that life is fragile.
Writing this review, I find myself at a loss for words. The book’s short, just over 200 pages with pictures, and it’s hard to describe the beauty in a book that simply needs to be experienced to be appreciated. If you follow my reviews at all, you’ll know that I rarely read novels that fall under the young adult category, so what the hell am I doing reading an middle grade novel? You don’t have to be a certain age to appreciate the masterpiece that is A Monster Calls, and I don’t believe Patrick Ness wrote it specifically for young teenagers. Cancer doesn’t discriminate, it affects everyone of all ages and races. A Monster Calls is a testament to the skill of Ness and should be a mandatory read for anyone with a heart.
Don’t make the mistake of skipping this one: Read it.