Thursday, August 16, 2012
There is a certain level on which I have to justify my reaction to A Monster Calls. As I neared the halfway mark of the book, I began to see clear parallels between main character Conor's situation and that of a good friend of mine. The moment this happened - the moment I went from simply empathizing with the characters and instead seeing them as real people I know in my real world - there was nothing left to do. A Monster Calls horrified me. It latched itself onto me. It dug a hole straight into my emotional core and left me shuddering. At the book's end, I found myself completely emotionally compromised.
Someone who saw me in this state - literally shaking with grief - commented half-joking that this is why he doesn't read books. But this is exactly why I read books. A Monster Calls may have deeply disturbed me, but it did so in an absolutely astonishing way. With simple language and a simple setting, Patrick Ness created a story that enraptured me for three straight hours. I could not set the book aside. I literally ached from reading it. It is literature at its finest - perfect.
And here's what I think sets A Monster Calls apart from the vast majority of sad kids books. Most sad stories are "heart-wrenching" because they're constructed to be that way. The author sets the stage to make you feel for the tragic heroes. A Monster Calls is something different. It's about more than death. It's about more than grief. It's about so, so much more that I am scared to divulge for fear of ruining the book's power. It's just something special.
Recommending a book as painful as A Monster Calls is not easy. How can I wish this upon anyone else? How can I tell any other reader to experience such sorrow?
I recommend it because it's essential. A Monster Calls is a perfect book. The writing style may be simple and childish, but this is powerful stuff. This a book that I've revisited every night since first reading it, trying to go back and pinpoint where I fell completely under its spell. Each time I reach the end, I am drained. The story does not lose its power upon reread. And I suspect that it never will.