I read a wonderful review of The Crane Wife by Patrick Ness over at Annabel’s House of Books and I asked if it was YA(Young Adult) fiction, a genre I admit to being a little reluctant to read, not because there aren’t excellent books, but because part of the joy for me in reading is to be exposed to and learn, uncommon new words, adding to my private lexicon, words that would seem pretentious in teen fiction.
There are always exceptions however, recently I loved Margarita Engle’s novel-in-verse The Wild Book and when a book sounds like it has qualities that intrigue me, a review by any blogger on my reading wavelength is sufficient for it to lodge in my mind and be called off a shelf when I spot it. Annabel replied telling me that this was Ness’ first adult novel and recommended his YA trilogy Chaos Walking for a thought-provoking dystopian adventure and described A Monster Calls as phenomenal. That one lodged itself immediately in my mind.
On Saturday I went looking for the original version (French) of Ru by Kim Thuy at the library after reading an excellent interview by BookDragon only to discover that all copies were out.
Naturally I couldn’t leave without a quick glance at the English language bookshelves and there it was, the beautiful hardback, fully illustrated copy of Patrick Ness’ A Monster Calls. I picked it up and headed for the exit, so as not to be tempted by more, since I have too much to read already, but as I left, my eye caught the display shelf where I spotted Quelques Minutes Apres Minuit, a familiar book cover in the same colours, yes, the same book with its French title and cover. As you can see, I brought them both home.
The idea for A Monster Calls came from the writer Siobhan Dowd, who was unable to complete the book tragically due to a terminal illness. Patrick Ness was asked to write the story, a remarkable challenge that somehow he managed to achieve without, ironically, the shadow of expectation or any other writerly monster hanging over or haunting him.
Conor O’Malley is thirteen-years-old and lives with his mother; his parents are divorced and his father remarried and now lives in America with his wife and baby daughter. Conor’s mother is in the latter stages of a terminal illness and Conor is coping with doing more things on his own, while becoming distant from his school-friends and attracting the attention of a school bully. On top of all this, his life is complicated by the nightly appearance of a tree monster, who doesn’t really scare him, as he tells it, he’s seen worse.
The monster wants something from him and Conor can’t or won’t offer it and yet he won’t be left alone until he does.
It is as if the extraordinary circumstance that brought this book about, invoked something magical that inspired Patrick Ness beyond what he might otherwise be capable of, because the book transcends the usual storytelling and creates a dialogue someplace between a brutal reality that is, and the unwanted but unstoppable future that will be, where an apparition takes on the role of enticing the traumatised teenager towards that excruciating path he must follow.
It is a breathtakingly raw journey that the author maps out, navigated with the extraordinary insight that only a vivid, courageous and mature imagination could channel.
It will leave you in awe.
A rare 5 stars from me.
Recommended for all ages.