I don’t normally go for tear jerkers, but this one is well worth the crying. A Monster Calls is simply a stunning book. It doesn’t just aim for sadness; it tackles a difficult subject the death of a parent in a magical way without being maudlin, and it’s fabulously written and surprisingly entertaining.
Thirteen-year-old Conor lives alone with his mother who is dying of cancer. That setup alone made me afraid to pick up this book. But what makes A Monster Calls truly wonderful are the nightmares and the monster. (Yes, you read that right). A monster comes visiting Conor at key moments in his life, telling him odd stories and giving him odd powers. Conor is not afraid of the monster, like you might expect; he’s dealing with worse things. And the novel is about his journey to face those things.
Ness’ writing really draws you in, and doesn’t let go. If you have any doubts about picking up this book, read the first chapter and you’ll see what I mean. Ness’ talent is also obvious in his book, The Knife of Never Letting Go, but that story had some other issues.
A Monster Calls, on the other hand, is elegantly written and incredibly moving. The idea for the story was actually developed by Siobhan Dowd who was too ill with cancer herself to write it. That real life story is tragic enough. And the fictional story she came up with, and that Ness executes, will shake you.
It’s a hard fact of life that many children have to deal with the death of a parent, but this fictional story has some really powerful things to say about death and grief. You’ll be surprised and delighted by A Monster Calls even as it breaks your heart. I highly recommend it for adults as well as young adults.
What sad books have you read that were worth the tears?