AUTHOR: Patrick Ness, (original idea from Siobhan Dowd)
PUBLISHER: Walker Books
DATE PUBLISHED: September 27, 2011
OVERALL RATING: 5 out of 5
SYNOPSIS (from Goodreads): The monster showed up after midnight. As they do.
But it isn’t the monster Conor’s been expecting. He’s been expecting the one from his nightmare, the one he’s had nearly every night since his mother started her treatments, the one with the darkness and the wind and the screaming…
This monster is something different, though. Something ancient, something wild. And it wants the most dangerous thing of all from Conor.
It wants the truth.
Patrick Ness is a celebrated author generally because of being in possession with a faculty of depicting a vivid fictional setting. A Monster Calls is my first of his. Prior to reading it, I’m surged with a dose of antsy feelings since there’s an enormous hype surrounding it. This is a relatively short story, barely exceeding 250 pages. With only a handful of space, I like how Ness condensed the words needed to deliver the point of the story. Straightforward. No grandiloquent, I’ll-take-a-detour-and-confuse-my-readers kind of writing. Some books would go about 400 pages and yet the chief concept of the story is nowhere near recognition. I’m glad the Patrick Ness hype was justified.
I was anticipating for a downright children’s fantasy on this story but I got more than that. The underlying themes were plainly not only directed for them. The use of fantasy elements – the Yew Tree, the stories, the mottled leaves after the nightmare – to convey a point was excellent. It addressed the issues of shouldering multiple anxieties at a young age. While contemporary YA books gear toward fluffy high school romances, here’s a story that dared highlight the different, the untold, the one not living the American dream.
Bullying is a culture and that’s exactly what Connor endured each day of his school life. This is a very relatable story because each one of us underwent episodes of such. The Yew Tree is a clever representation of the push we need to fight back to these atrocities in life, for the browbeating to stop.
Another important theme of AMC is the sheer need to have one’s own identity. It’s hard to get defined by a catastrophic event in your life and that’s exactly what Connor endured. Being given all the passes in life is the categorical synonym of being in an out-and-out sorry situation and that’s the last thing someone like Connor needed.
There are harder things than being invisible
Patrick Ness and Siobhan Dowd painted a clear-cut picture of conflicts in a person attending to an ailing loved one. I can judge. I’ve been there. Wishing for it all to end was cruel but it’s inevitable to cross such thought. To think about it is brutal. To confess it is even more.
You were merely wishing for the end of the pain, the monster said. Your own pain. An end to how it isolated you. It is the most human wish of all.
Overall, AMC is a tugging, lesson-crammed story. So poignant it would loiter on your system for some time.
Shortly after midnight, at precisely 12:07, Connor O’Malley awakes at a calling of a monster who took the figure of a Yew Tree. It demanded him to listen to three of his stories and hear one of Connor’s. Outside these “bad dreams”, he had his own nightmares to worry about.
How the events of the story played along was intelligently timed and paced. There’s enough pages dedicated to underlining the unlucky happenstances of the characters leading to eliciting the intended feelings of the reader. No resources from our Mother Earth wasted.
The three stories of the monster were smart metaphors of what Connor’s undertaking. I like how each was woven in a manner that makes the reader ponder, like the protagonist, on what the exact messages are. My favorite was the first wherein a conflict arose between the prince and a queen witch. It’s a mirror of every person’s personality, that people have pleasant intentions but the means to get through don’t necessarily have to be as nice.
There is not always a good guy. Nor is there always a bad one. Most people are somewhere in between.
A huge chunk of the story was dedicated to sitting behind Connor’s perspectives. As a reader, there’s hardly any effort to link one’s emotion with the story through the protagonist. The character development was felt so strongly, his language striking, and thoughts provocative. What Connor struggles with, the reader does too.
In AMC, there wasn’t an eclectic cast. This feature was used to an advantage suitably. With only a handful of characters, the connection of the secondary and auxiliary characters with the protagonist, Connor, was visible. The addition of each contributed to a successful building of worlds and transference of points.
Let me underscore the character of the monster/ Herne the hunter/ Cernunnos/ Green Man/ Yew Tree. I envisage him as a structure that stood rooted on a hill listening to every story of the townsfolk, waiting for something arresting to urge him to walk through the earth. The Yew Tree’s unlimited well of knowledge and it being constantly on point with its messages are something to be adored. Like I’ve mentioned above, we need a monster as such – be it other people, ourselves, a book, an event, etc. – to give us the right shove towards the proper direction to tread.
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.