Author: Patrick Ness (original story by Siobhan Dowd)
Illustrator: Jim Kay
Publisher: Walker Books (2011)
Number of Pages: 200 pages
First Published: 2011
Literary Awards: Abraham Lincoln Award Nominee (2015), Carnegie Medal in Literature (2012), Goodreads Choice Nominee for Middle Grade & Children's (2011), and many more.
At seven minutes past midnight, thirteen-year-old Conor wakes to find a monster outside his bedroom window. But it isn’t the monster Conor’s been expecting — he’s been expecting the one from his nightmare, the nightmare he’s had nearly every night since his mother started her treatments.
The monster in his backyard is different. It’s ancient. And wild. And it wants something from Conor. Something terrible and dangerous. It wants the truth.
From the final idea of award-winning author Siobhan Dowd — whose premature death from cancer prevented her from writing it herself — Patrick Ness has spun a haunting and darkly funny novel of mischief, loss, and monsters both real and imagined.
Every night, seven minutes after midnight, a monster calls for young Connor. The monster was ancient and wild, it was terrible and dangerous. It worse than the nightmares Connor had been having.
"I am the spine that the mountains hang upon! I am the tears that the rivers cry! I am the lungs that breathe the wind! I am the wolf that kills the stag, the hawk that kills the mouse, the spider that kills the fly! I am the stag, the mouse and the fly that are eaten! I am the snake of the world devouring its tail! I am everything untamed and untameable!"
But this monster wasn't an ordinary monster. It came to Connor to tell three stories and ask one in return. One story that will tell Connor's life. The real truth.
“Stories are wild creatures," the monster said. "When you let them loose, who knows what havoc they might wreak?”
So night by night Connor wait and listen. And day by day passed while we learn more about him. About his sick mother, his astranged father and his perfectionist grandmother, about school and the bullying and one friend he had left finally gone too. About his wishes... or what he wishes he never wished for.
Three extraordinary stories were told by the monster. Stories that didn't quite black and white, stories that puzzles Connor even more.
“Because humans are complicated beasts," the monster said. "How can a queen be both a good witch and a bad witch? How can a prince be a murderer and a saviour? How can an apothecary be evil-tempered but right-thinking? How can a parson be wrong-thinking but good-hearted? How can invisible men make themselves more lonely by being seen?"
And then, it was time for Connor to tell his story....
Sometimes we did that, didn't we... punishing ourselves because we thought we deserves it, because we thought we did really bad things. The guilt that eat us alive!
But two quotes from this book did make me think...
“You do not write your life with words...You write it with actions. ”
“There is not always a good guy. Nor is there always a bad one. Most people are somewhere in between.”
And I realise how true it is, we could think whatever we could or could not do, what we did or should did or shouldn't do, but then again, to continue our life, the first thing to do was to let go....
It was a really really dark and sad children book. gloomy and made me weep right through the end. But in the same time, made me learn a lot about life just the way it is.
About the Author:
Patrick Ness (born October 17, 1971) is an American-born British author, journalist and lecturer who lives in London and holds dual citizenship. He is best known for his books for young adults, including the Chaos Walking trilogy and A Monster Calls.
Ness won the annual Carnegie Medal from the British librarians both in 2011 and in 2012, for Monsters of Men and A Monster Calls, recognising each as the best new book for children or young adults published in the U.K. He is one of seven writers to win two Medals and the second to win consecutively.
A Monster Calls (2011) originated with Siobhan Dowd, another writer with the same editor at Walker, Denise Johnstone-Burt. Before her August 2007 death, Dowd and Johnstone-Burt had discussed the story and contracted for Dowd to write it. Afterward, Walker arranged separately with Ness to write and Jim Kay to illustrate, and those two completed the book without meeting. Ness won the Carnegie and Kay won the companion CILIP Kate Greenaway Medal, the first time one book has won both medals.
Read also The Guardian article about Patrick Ness criticizing education policy for young people.
All the illustration here were taken from Jim Kay Gallery at booktrust.org.uk.
And here's my review for one of Siobhan Dowd novels, The London Eye Mystery.