Title: A Monster Calls
Author: Patrick Ness (from an original idea by Siobhan Dowd)
Publication information: Walker Books LTD (2011)
This book was written by Patrick Ness using the final ideas of Siobhan Dowd, whose premature death, caused by cancer, prevented her from writing it herself. This funny, sad and extraordinary novel captivated me from the beginning and it was the kind of book where you have your own ideas about what should happen, but what happens is actually more satisfying. This is a very quick read; it's only 215 pages; and includes the haunting beautiful illustrations of Jim Kay, which adds to the mystery and intrigue of the book.
Regarding characters, there were two main ones featured; Conor and the monster. Conor, is a young teenager in this novel and I think this is a great interpretation of how a person of that age would deal with these kind of events. Overall he is quite a well-rounded character; he has realistic fears and emotions and it is clear that he hasn't been made too stereotypical in that he is not a brave protagonist that could withstand anything - he's just human, and that's one of the main things I like about this book. The monster, is everything a monster needs to be in this kind of novel. It adds mystery and fear to the novel, helped by the wonderful, dark illustrations. The other characters in the book are really only touched upon slightly but that helps the reader to feel the alienation that Conor is feeling. Reading the book, we don't really know what to expect, and the side characters reflect that, they are part of the unknown. Although we as readers don't get told much about Conor's grandmother, mother or father, we know enough to understand what's going on. I think that the addition of the school bully was an interesting way to emphasise that Conor is just a normal teenager and as the story unfolds, we realise that this bullying becomes an integral factor in the events that unfold.
A Monster Calls is classed as a fantasy novel, which is true to some extent, but I think that as it is set in modern times, in what seems like this world, the fantasy aspect is only really explored by the addition of the monster and the dreams. This makes the story a lot more believable to the reader and emphasises the idea that even though there is a monster in this story, which is a very important part of the plot, the story that is unfolding before your eyes is real; the boy, his mother and their struggle.
The plot isn't that complex. The overall premise is clear from the beginning and although the ending is not obvious, the messages told throughout the novel give clear indications to what is going to happen. At first, I felt like this might be suitable for a much younger reader than myself, which it probably would be, but again, as the plot unfolds it draws you in and I think that it would be suitable for any young reader and that the reader benefits from the message told through this story.
Overall, I feel that the writing is simple to understand and propells the story along at a comfortable pace. This is a short novel with a deep plot and I think that the pace suits the style of storyline perfectly. One of my favourite things about this book is the way the monster's speech; the way that it almost speaks in riddles adding to the mystery and the way that all of it's speech is printed in italics. This makes it stand out from the rest of the text and makes you wonder whether he is actually speaking at all, or whether it's all in Conor's head. Also, I really enjoyed the way that although it was written from third person perspective, you could see exactly what Conor was thinking and the length of the sentences in parts reflected the urgency that he was expressing.
Overall, I would give this a 5 out of 5 as I found the story captivating and the illustrations made the whole thing a lot more enjoyable to read and added to the atmosphere of the plot.