One reason I choose to read YA Literature is that they are often quick reads with modern plots. This category is great for staying up to date with modern references to music, television, and technology. Another reason I read novels directed at teens is there are many current novels about dystopian societies, which often draw my interest. Finally, I read YA Literature to remind myself of what it is like to be a teenager. Life is different for teens today than when I was younger. I think it is important to be able to remain sympathetic to the complicated nature of teen life, and not to become too distant from those years. For, when you forget what it is like to be young, you truly begin to be old. Reading YA Literature ensures that I remain wild at heart.
A Monster Calls, by Patrick Ness, was inspired by an original idea by Siobhan Dowd, author of award winning novels, A Swift Pure Cry, The London Eye Mystery, and Bog Child. Dowd died of breast cancer in 2007, before completing A Monster Calls, a novel about a young boy named Conor who is dealing with his mother's battle with terminal cancer. Patrick Ness was invited by Dowd and her editor to finish this short story posthumously. Since it's publication, A Monster Calls has won multiple awards, including the Carnegie Medal, the Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals (CILIP) prize, and the Galaxy National Award.
A Monster Calls is part graphic novel, part children's book, and a complex story about death and loss. The artwork in the book, illustrated by Jim Kay, is amazing and adds a deep layer to the story. I was literally able to visualize the terrifying monster, a living yew tree that visits Conor and tells him he will have to listen to three stories and then tell his own, a story that Conor dreads speaking aloud. Due to Ness' excellent ability to paint emotions with words, I was able to feel everything that Conor feels: his sadness, fear, and anger.
As I have in other Ness novels, I closed this book with puffy, wet eyes, glad it was over, but wishing there was more. Ness has an amazing ability of building up hope for happy endings and then reminding you that life doesn't always have happy endings - which is one of the themes in this book.
I highly recommend this book, as well as anything else Ness and Dowd have written. However, read with caution. There is much to hope for, but, like in real life, we don't always get what we want, and the lessons we learn as we deal with loss are often hard to swallow.
Bookshelf: I recommend this book on a weekly basis. It is amazing, and I keep it displayed on a shelf in my living room. Every time someone comes to my house, they see that book and question me about the artwork and the novel. My response is the same every time: Read it. It is amazing. But, fair warning, keep tissues nearby...
Adult Value: Although this book is written for youth, anyone can relate to the theme of death and loss. Each of us has lost someone or something valuable to us. A Monster Calls reminds us, even as adults, that we cannot control everything. Rather than feeling guilty about what we could have done, or should have done, we should focus on what we will do in order to move on, past our losses, and have a positive and successful future.