Conor O'Malley, a boy with no friends and a very ill mother, is haunted by the same nightmare every night of a tree monster. To get rid of this nightmare, he must listen to three stories the monster tells and Conor must tell the fourth story, the truth.
Author: Patrick Ness
CAUTION: There will be spoilers. If you don't want to be spoiled, then don't read any further than this.
The book that I got is a "Special Collector's Edition" which means extra pages about the book, concept art, and behind the scenes pictures of the upcoming movie. The actual story is 205 pages long. If you leave out all the extra pages, the book itself is not very big. I was able to sit down and read the whole story from beginning to end in one day. Probably six or seven hours tops. The story is a psychological thriller about a boy that is going through hardships at home and at school. His mother is being treated for cancer, but the cancer has gotten to the point where the treatment has stopped working and his grandmother and his father are called in to help. The monster is set to be either Conor's savior or doom for if Conor does not admit to the truth then he will be stuck in his nightmare for eternity.
To be honest, if you seen movies or read books about someone with cancer or depression then you know how this is going to end. You will know right away from the beginning of the story how this is going to end from miles away. A big turn off is that even though this is meant to be a sad story, there is nothing in this book that lightens the mood. No humor or anything and it made the story kind of difficult to read. It was a "Woe to me! Life is so horrible!" story all the way through. The only thing that kept me reading were the stories the monster tells.
The stories the monster tells always has a small twist at the end of each story, which annoys Connor, and this is the hint as to the lesson that Conor needed to learn. The monster starts off trying to terrorize Conor at first, but then claims in one of the stories that he is the tree of healing since the form he takes during the day is a yew tree and yew tree berries are suppose to help heal all illnesses. To me, the monster is a metaphor for this kid's anger towards how his life went and that nothing good ever comes to him. The monster is neither good nor bad. He is basically what he described himself to be. He is wild and untamed, a healer and a destroyer, a friend and a nightmare. He will do anything that he thinks is right.
What all the characters seem to have in common is that they are all angry, but what I don't understand at all are the bullies, Harry, Anton, and Sully. Harry is the one that beats up and picks on Conor in the school hallway while the other two stood there and laughed. It never explains why these kids were picking on him and that I was suppose to understand that Harry is suppose to make Conor understand something, which I don't. After Harry beats up Conor, they would just stare at each other, nod, and then walk off like nothing ever happened. The only real conversation they had is when Harry decided to tell Conor that he is going to start ignoring him just like Conor wanted, but then a final fight breaks out before the bullies disappear for the rest of the story. What I also notice is how Conor sometimes over exaggerates how bad his grandmother is. He describes the she treats him like a butler, but the only time I would see that is when his grandmother arrived and asked him to make her and his mother tea. That was the only favor she asked for. The rest of the time, she is coming up with ideas on what is best for Conor, which is mostly living home with her when the time came. Conor's childhood friend, Lily, seemed forced. Her only role is to be Conor's verbal punching bag and putting the blame on her for telling everyone that his Mom has cancer, which made everyone look at him differently and feel sorry for him. In fact, most of the people feel so sorry for Conor that if he misses homework or get into trouble that it is all water under the bridge and ignored. No punishment or anything. Give me something that shows some sort of bond between these characters. The only thing that had some sort of bond was Conor and the monster when the monster shares his stories.
How the author came up with the design of the monster was done with ink blots. He would drip ink on to a piece of paper, folded it, and then repeat the process until he gets the result that he wanted. The design became consistent through out the rest of the monster's design. The illustrations in the book are amazing to look at and really set the mood for the whole story. Each chapter has an illustration that i stretched out from beginning to end that shows a specific scene of that chapter. The illustrations are done with pencil, charcoal, and ink. It is always full of detail and expression like one picture is of the monster peering through the window looking for Conor with rage and anger, but then in another chapter you see the same monster sitting down with his chin rested on his hand like he is thinking. The illustrations are not just of the monster, but of other scenes as well for instance a scene that shows a living room totally destroyed by Conor.
A Monster Calls is a quick read with nice pictures. The story gets straight to the point, but there is too much sadness and depression that there is not enough room for any lighthearted moment. This makes it kind of difficult to read. Not everything in life is so doom and gloom and I wish the author had added at least one moment for something actually good happen. If you like stories that are sad and depressing then this could be a good read for you.
Stay tuned for part 2 when I do the movie review. Let me know what you think. Have you read the book? If so, what are your thoughts on it? Are you going to see the movie? Let me know in the comments.