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A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness

Writing.ie | Book Reviews | Children’s Books

By Grace O’Reilly

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A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness (Inspired by an original idea from the late Siobhan Dowd)

A Monster Calls, was written by Patrick Ness and first published in 2011 by Walker Books Ltd.  The original idea, and the inspiration for this book’s story, came from the creative mind of the late Siobhan Dowd.  Siobhan passed away from Breast Cancer in 2007, before she could write the novel that she had envisioned in head.  All of Siobhan’s royalties from this book, and from all of her other book titles, go to ‘The Siobhan Dowd Trust’, which she set up personally, prior to her much too early death.  ‘The Siobhan Dowd Trust’ helps to bring the joy of books and of reading to those children who would not have access to books otherwise.  These children are usually in care, and other unfairly disadvantaged children.  Look on www.siobhandowdtrust.com for more information on the Trust.

Whist this is a recommended read for Young Adult readers, an adult can appreciate the story also.  It is a low fantasy tale. The beautiful cover photography design on the book that I borrowed from my friend Peter is by Getty Images.  However, when I researched other covers and illustrations were done by the talented Jim Kay.

Conor O’Malley lives in modern day England with his Mother.  His Granny lives near.  His father, however lives away in America with his new wife and their baby.  Despite this, Conor is happy enough living with his Mum, that is until she gets sick.  At first it seemed to be extreme fatigue, then a lingering flu, and then…, well things just got bleak.  With his Mum in hospital regularly for treatments and bedbound frequently, Conor’s Granny comes to sleepover a lot, and to help out more often, or Conor goes to stay with her.  His Granny and him seem to butt heads more and more.  Despite his Mum telling him that she will get better, the evidence is different.

School isn’t a nice place to be either, and certainly not an escape from his worries.  Three lads in his class are mean and bully Conor.  As he tries to avoid the bullies and his Mum’s illness, he retreats further into himself and from his lifelong friend Lily, who just wants to be there for him, and misses their friendship.  Even the teachers treat him differently, now that they know how sick his Mum really is, and how hard his family dynamic is too.  There is more though.

Conor has a dream, the same dream similarly played out, every single night, since his Mum became ill.  Even in his sleep, poor Conor can’t be left to be.  One of the nights when Conor wakes up it is more than just a dream, it is real.  He awakes to his name being called from outside of his bedroom window.  There is a visitor.  The ancient yew tree, that is on top of the hill by the church and cemetery, where the tree shelters them.  This tree can be seen from their kitchen window.  But the yew tree is more than just a yew tree, it is now a big giant monster with large branchlike arms and a face. It is the middle of the night, at seven minutes past midnight, to be precise.  Claiming to be a version of the Green Man, he says that he will tell Conor three stories, and Conor has to tell the forth story.  He wants the scariest thing that Conor can give, he wants Conor to tell the truth.  If Conor does not, the monster will eat him.  He has to face the harsh reality of what is imminently happening.  The tales that the monster tells Conor show how the world is not always black or white, that sometimes things happen and that it is not always fair.

The book was made into a film a 2014 by Focus Features and directed by Juan Antonio Bayona.  Patrick Ness wrote the screen play too, for the film version, Liam Neeson voiced the monster and Lewis MacDougall played the boy, Conor.  Patrick also wrote the play script for the stage, where it was first opened in Bristol Old Vic, on May 31st 2018.

Patrick Ness is an author, journalist, lecturer and screenwriter, best known for his Young Adult books including the above reviewed A Monster Calls, as well as the Chaos Walking trilogy.

(c) Grace O’Reilly

Order your copy online here.

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