I am finding it very hard to articulate a review right this second. I put down this book some fifteen minutes ago, and have only just managed to stop crying. A book that touches you like that is a very rare book indeed. I don’t cry often, a defence mechanism from my adolescence I think, but by all that I believe in, that was one of the most harrowingly beautiful book I have read.
The book is “A Monster Calls” by Patrick Ness, and I would happily copy in any place you could read it, but I think Amazon is a safe bet.
It had an unusual beginning. The idea, and the characters were from a book planned by Siobhan Dowd before her untimely death from cancer. Patrick Ness was approached with writing the story. And he has ran with it. Every word impacts, and right from the start it is a truly stunning read.
Conor dreams the same dream every night since his mother fell ill and the treatments stopped quite working. And one night, the monster comes to call. It wants the most dangerous thing that Conor has to offer, it wants him to tell the truth.
Connor’s single mother is in the last stages of a fight with cancer when the monster visits. It claims that it is here to help. Conor doesn’t want help, from his grandmother, from his father far away in America with his new family. He and his mum have been getting on fine. At school, only the bullies really notice him now.
He hates how everyone keeps asking him how he is doing, he hates how they expect him to break, to want to talk. One of the things I loved most about this book is how relatable some of the sentiments are, from the point of view of a young carer. Conor doesn’t like the idea that he can’t take care of his mum on his own, he doesn’t want help because needed help is paramount to admitting he failed. The monster comes each night, but it isn’t the scariest thing he has, or will have to face. It’s a monster with a face, rather than his mother’s illness, which is a monster without a face.
Connor’s anger, his determination to be strong, how he feels like he needs to be punished, how he wants to be seen as something more than the son of a dying woman. The monster is there to tell him stories, and in return, he expects a fourth. The truth of Conor’s nightmare, that has plagued him since his mother got sick. And I think the internal battle Conor faces is one that many young carers can relate to, whether their parent has a terminal illness, or one that can be treated.
So, my review is less a review, and more of a whole hearted thank you to Patrick Ness for writing this, for representing the churning, confusing mix of emotions in such a harrowingly beautiful novel. I rarely cry, in fact, I can pick less than five books I have openly wept at, and this book is now one of them. Maybe it was the level at which Conor’s experience resonated with my own experience, reminding me that I have yet to admit to my past and accept the truth. It is definitely to do with how beautifully written this is.
So, thank you for this book. Thank you for writing a book that has managed to capture how it can feel to be a young carer.
I actually can’t recommend this enough. To anyone. I don’t know if I have managed to say how much this 200 odd page novel has managed to affect me so deeply. I have some coloured sticky markers for when reading textbooks, and I decided to put a marker in every time I could relate to a specific line which summed up how Connor was feeling, be it irritation at being called a child, or someone suggesting he couldn’t or shouldn’t have to do it alone. My book is a mess of orange stickers and tear stains. It will have a special place in my heart, from this day.
Please, please read!