This week I finished reading Patrick Ness’s beautifully written children’s novel, A Monster Calls. A primary school teacher had mentioned this book to me a few weeks ago, and since then I had been desperate to check it out. The book deals with an emotionally strenuous and potentially upsetting plot, and I was intrigued to see how this could be made accessable to a younger generation of readers.
Conor’s mother is dying, seemingly from cancer, and Conor is staying strong and supporting her in every way he can. However, as the plot unravels, it becomes apparent that he is ignoring the ugly facts of the situation and is not learning to process his own feelings.
The author uses some fantastic imagery to construct the monster that is referred to in the title of the book, and in so doing creates a tool that can gradually translate Conor’s confusing and conflicting emotions into a more tangible and understandable force. As a character, Conor transitions from a boy who is terrified of a nightmare that he is unwilling to understand, to a boy that is capable of emotionally processing a hugely traumatic experience.
This book is poetic and yet beautifully simple and was an absolute joy to read. There is an interesting contrast between Conor’s childish perspective and the wise yew tree that guides him towards understanding which kept me engaged throughout and that provided the novel with a strong plot structure.