Life will not always be easy. Life will always have struggles and hardships humans must face at various points in their lives. During these difficult moments, others will express their encouragement, saying that everything will be all right. Though these words do bring some comfort, there will be very trying moments where everything will not seem like it will get any better and no amount of encouraging words will bring any sort of comfort. Patrick Ness’ A Monster Calls does an excellent job at portraying those hard moments when everything is not all right.
Conor is a young boy who must be strong for his sick mother. Ever since she began her treatments, he has had the same recurring nightmare: a nightmare housing darkness and a monster. One night after midnight, a monster unlike the one from his nightmare appears to Conor in the form of a yew tree. This ancient monster has come for a purpose unknown to young Conor. Has it come to teach him something from the stories it tells him? Has it come to save his mother with the healing abilities only yew trees possess? Through multiple visits, only one thing is clear: the monster wants the truth locked deep within Conor’s heart.
Upon completion, it is amazing to realize A Monster Calls was written for a younger audience. Though it is an excellent introduction for its intended audience to the hardships life can and will more than likely bring, readers from an older audience will probably take more away from the story. The story’s origin came from Siobhan Dowd, a very influential British writer for young adults, and was brought to life by Ness. When asked, Ness was hesitant to write out Dowd’s idea, but he and illustrator Jim Kay proved to be the perfect pairing to bring Dowd’s idea to life.
Ness’ writing style is simple, yet elegant with each sentence flowing flawlessly into the next, causing readers to not want to stop turning pages. Kay’s illustrations lay scattered throughout the book, offering beautiful black and white visuals to paint a vivid image within the minds of readers both young and old.
Though it is a story for young adults, it is not a good-feeling fairy tale readers may be looking for. A Monster Calls tells a story about difficult times in life and how, though things may not seem like they will ever be all right, that it is okay to let out frustration. It is difficult to be strong all the time, especially for a character as young as Conor. The monster represents that part of any human being that simply cannot and will not be strong every waking moment. Strength is great to have and healthy for the mind, but unleashing that inner anger and frustration can be healthy for the soul, as well.
Life can and will be hard. No one will be able to escape some sort of hardship within his or her life. What a powerful, but necessary message to convey to the younger generation and what better way to tell it than through a story? Through the collaboration of three amazing minds, A Monster Calls is a story that will reach out to its intended young audience as well as to an older audience. Even in the darkest of times, the light will always shine through, but one should never be afraid to express the fears and doubts he or she has before the light returns. It is not healthy to keep emotions bottled inside. When life becomes challenging, be strong, but one should never be afraid to unleash frustration, as well.