Book Review: A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness
Do not make my mistake and read the ebook of A Monster Calls. Too many people on bookish social media have posted photographs of the beautiful illustrations within the print edition. I wish I had read the print version.
Even without the illustrations, though, this story will move you.
Connor O'Malley's mother is undergoing seemingly endless treatments for cancer. His dad left his mother and has a new family in America. His grandmother has an impeccably decorated home that matches her fiercely perfectionist approach to work and life.
His closest friend betrayed him and told everyone at school that his mother was sick. The teachers let him slide on assignments. His classmates don't know how to interact with him, except for one bully and his two goons who regularly beat on Connor.
It's no wonder this poor kid suffers through nightmares. No one understands what Connor needs except a monster.
The monster shows up after midnight with a proposal. He will tell Connor three stories, and in exchange the monster requires Connor to tell his story. Connor's story about the truth.
As the story unfolds, you realize what truth Connor has not faced. And while that truth may be easy to guess, how Ness writes the remainder of the tale matters.
The monster's wise perspective guides the boy. Connor finds comfort in some of the monster's words; however, the stories the monster shares infuriate Connor. They are not the typical stories children are used to hearing.
Connor hears the monster's strongest advice:
And Connor acts. He makes his choice. His tells his truth.
And you will need tissues.