4 of 5 stars
If you’ve heard of A Monster Calls, then you’ve most likely heard the story behind it: Siobhan Dowd began the story after she was diagnosed with cancer, but unfortunately cancer never let her finish. Patrick Ness finished it after finally giving in to the request of her publisher. In the introduction, Ness says that he was reluctant until he read her notes, started having more ideas, and felt her saying “Go. Run with it. Make trouble.” I usually adamantly stay away from “cancer books”, but the story behind this one was so moving.. I checked it out from the library the day first I heard about the book.
A Monster Calls is truly a heartwrenching story – simply but powerfully told. After Conor’s mother begins treatments, a monster in the form of an elm tree visits Conor and tells him three stories, with the deal that at the end Conor has to tell him his story.. his TRUTH. At first, Conor (and the reader) has a hard time figuring out if the monster is real or if he is only dreaming . Then Conor comes to expect the monster and finds comfort in his presence, in his stories, which are ultimately leading Conor to actually face his truth. Everything in the story is tied together so perfectly… there is beautiful symbolism with the elm tree, the monster’s timing, and Conor’s dreams.
The story is about grief and how people handle it so differently – how people make themselves believe something else when the truth is too hard, how they think things they wouldn’t normally think. I think the true message of this book is to let yourself feel and then to give yourself a break. It was truly touching – not to mention, tearjerking.
You do not write your life with words, the monster said. You write it with actions. What you think is not important. It is only important what you do.
Since A Monster Calls deals so closely with the monster that took Siobhan Dowd’s life, it ends up being a beautiful tribute to her life. Well done, Patrick Ness! Stories don’t end with the writers, however, many started the race.