A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness

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Stories are wild creatures, the monster said.
When you let them loose, who knows what havoc they might wreak?

I really needed a hug after reading this – it triggered a terrible episode of feeling all those damned feels.

At 12:07 AM an ancient monster appears at 13-year-old Conor O’Malley’s window. It has taken the form of a gnarled yew tree and it comes bearing three stories. In exchange, Conor must tell the fourth. And the fourth story, the monster insists, must be the truth. A truth that Conor denies even to himself.

If you’re lucky enough to get your hands on one of the gorgeously illustrated editions of this book, don’t judge it by its dark, eerie cover. It’s a moody, but much more poignant story than what you’ll assume at first glance.

Throughout the novel, author Patrick Ness seamlessly blends the fantasy aspect of the monster’s stories and visits with the reality of Conor’s everyday life – a reality in which his mother is fighting a terminal illness, his best friend has betrayed his trust and the school bully has him firmly in his sights. Conor’s anger, confusion and isolation is heartbreaking. The monster is complex and at times his manner is a little cruel, but he is frank and offers Conor a sense of hope.

A highly recommended read. Ness brilliantly tackles the subjects of grief and the struggle of helplessly anticipating loss and change and I frequently found myself fighting back the tears, only to finally succumb to heart-clutching sobbing as I turned the last page.

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Illustration by Jim Kay.

A Monster Calls is based on an idea by author Siobhan Dowd, who unfortunately passed away before she could write the story.

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