Thursday, April 17, 2014

A Monster Calls is another example of Patrick Ness' magnificent as a writer. Ness begins the book with an introduction stating that the idea for this novel came from (sadly now deceased) Siobhan Dowd.

The book centers around Conor, a young boy whose mother is slowly dying from cancer. He's visited by a monster in the middle of the night, but Conor is not afraid. He's afraid of a different monster but one who he refuses to talk about. The new monster is the yew tree in his backyard--Cernunnos who in traditional Celtic lore is a symbol of nature and animals, but I think Ness was probably referring to the Neopaganism view of Cernunos as a symbol of the cycle of life, death and rebirth.

Cernunnos tells Conor that he will tell Conor three stories and after that Conor will tell him a story. Each story reflects a situation occurring in Conor's own life. Conor is the only one who can see his monster, so the people around him think he's reacting more or less typically to his mother's illness. Conor's actions become more extreme as the monster's stories continue.

This is the first book so far to win both the Carnegie Medal for literature and the Kate Greenaway Medal for illustration. I would recommend it to people who love stories that tear their heart apart.

Favorite Quotes: "Who am I? the monster repeated, still roaring. I am the spine that the mountains hang upon! I am the tears that the rivers cry! I am the lungs that breathe the wind! I am the wolf that kills the stag, the hawk that kills the mouse, the spider that kills the fly! I am the stag, the mouse, and the fly that are eaten. I am the snake of the world devouring its tail! I am everything untamed and untameable! It brought Conor up close to its eye. I am this wild earth, come for you, Conor O'Malley."
"Conor frowned, and for a second the whole room seemed to get darker, for a second it felt like the whole house was shaking, for a second it felt like he could reach down and tear the whole floor right out of the dark and loamy earth--"
"Stories were wild, wild animals and went off in directions you couldn't expect."

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