A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness (inspired by an idea from Siobhan Dowd)
Ever since his mom was diagnosed with breast cancer and began treatments, Conor has been haunted by nightmares. Just after midnight, at 12:07 AM, a monster enters his world through a desolate landscape and makes him live and relive the most terrible things that could happen to him. Even worse, a guy at school has detected Conor’s new haunted look and has decided to pick on the victim, to add an extra measure of horror.
So when a new monster shows up one night, Conor is surprised, and demands to know who he is.
“I have had as many names as there are years to time itself!” The monster comes as an eternal green man, but can take many forms. Conor sees him as a living, walking tree. Which, in fact, Conor doesn’t think is very scary, and he says so. The monster assures him that he’ll be plenty scared before their visits are over. They will live through four stories—and “stories are the wildest thing of all. . . .Stories chase and bite and hunt.”
Well, this monster is very scary, and that’s because he is someone whom Conor has called, yet Conor doesn’t know it. The eternal green man is going to force some truths from Conor, who, along with being bullied at school, has become nearly friendless and invisible since his mom has been sick—as if those who pity him can make the tragic aspects of life go away by ignoring him.
As Conor lives through his nightmares and the stories where there is no good guy, stories that prove that “many things that are true feel like a cheat,” the reader, too, becomes frightened for him—and hooked on the book.
A Monster Calls is a quick novel, full of haunting black and white illustrations. I love a book like this—where the writing is so wonderful that the author says all that needs to be said and nothing more. Ness doesn’t waste a word (or your valuable time). He sits the reader in the emotional roller coaster, but doesn’t snap on the safety belt. A great pick for October. Or anytime.