Fantasy, Young Adult

A Monster Calls, by Patrick Ness

I love making glorious book discoveries. I made one last night.

Despite the cover art, A Monster Calls is not a mystery or a thriller. It isn’t scary or violent. But it is sad. And profound. And thought-provoking. And hauntingly beautiful. And it is a Young Adult book.

Set in England, we encounter thirteen year old Conor O’Malley. He’s an only child, his parents are divorced, and his mother is sick. Very, very sick. But she reassures Conor that everything will be OK and she’ll recover. It’s a nice thought.

Outside Conor’s bedroom window is an old, gnarled yew tree. Each night at 12:07am the tree transforms into a monster (think Groot’s ugly cousin) who taunts Conor. The tree announces it will tell three stories. After the third story it will be Conor’s turn to tell the fourth one. And the fourth story must be his truth. If it is not his truth, the consequences will be dire.

We don’t know what this means. But we do hear the three stories. And we learn more about Conor’s life situation, which is steadily crumbling.

“….humans are complicated beasts…” says the monster. They are, indeed. So complicated, in fact, that they/we can change our perception of events to fit a certain narrative. It’s a defense mechanism, but we all do it. Sometimes it is necessary. But it can also be harmful to ourselves and others. And that is what this book is about. Beautifully written and full of unsaid messages and subtext, A Monster Calls is a unique treasure.

9.5/10 Stars

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