A Monster Calls
By Patrick Ness, from an idea by Siobhan Dowd, with illustrations by Jim Kay
Expected publication September 27, 2011 by Candlewick Press
I heard a lot of buzz about this one, so I grabbed an ARC when I had the chance. I wasn't really sure what to expect - I've never read a book by Siobhan Dowd or Patrick Ness, though I've heard heaps of praise for both of them. Apparently Dowd had the idea and characters planned for this when she abruptly passed away. Ness was approached to turn this into a book and this is the result.
One night, at 12:07, a monster shows up outside Conor's window. But it's not quite what he expected. See, Conor's been having nightmares since his mother first started feeling sick - and that's the monster he expected to see. But this monster, the one he actually encounters, claims Conor called him. We're about to find out why.
So, I'm not sure what I expected but this book was a wonderful surprise. It's terrifying and heartbreaking all at once. Ness has crafted a beautifully original story about loss and truth that should speak to all readers. The monster here is scary and yet has so many things to teach Conor that he is only intrigued. But he also needs the monster. He needs to understand what the monster means when it says that Conor called him here. He needs to understand the monster's confusing and irritating stories. He needs to understand why the monster insists that he talk about the nightmare - the horrible, awful, gut-wrenching nightmare. Conor's story is hard to listen to, especially because, to readers, it becomes clear where it's going very early on. However, part of the brilliance here is that Ness still makes you want to keep reading even though you're pretty sure how this story is going to end. I ached for Conor and understood him and his truth. This book is powerful and wonderful.
Thanks to the publisher for an advance reader's copy.