Recommended Reads: A Monster Calls

A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness

 A Monster Calls is written by Patrick Ness, from an idea sprung from the late writer Siobhan Dowd, who unfortunately passed away untimely due to cancer. The book is about a boy named Connor O’Malley, whose mother is dying from cancer. It is about his battle against himself and what he perceives around him, including the way people perceive him.

Let me make some comparisons with myself, if you will care to view it in such a way. The story really did affect me much more than I thought it would, perhaps more than any other story I have ever read. The reason for this is: my mother passed away when I was one, she died of cancer and I had to be really independent and brave, just like Connor O’Malley. I could completely relate with the story because, to disguise his hurt for this impending disaster that was to befall him, he had to summon a monster, the monster. I know all about that monster.

When Connor’s mum became really sick and was diagnosed as terminal, he walks in to school and the kids stare at him, act strange around him and don’t know what to say. This reminded me of the day my father died, I was seven and all I remember is going into class and everyone just staring at me. The teacher was trying to force a lesson out but all that was hanging in the air was the sense of me and my dead parents – I could tell everybody was thinking, “there’s poor orphan Niall”.

In the story Connor was also being picked on by the bullies in school, who, like wolves had picked up on an overwhelming scent of unhappiness – and they smelt the blood of easy prey. This was inevitable as he was ‘invisible’, or so he thought he was, until a monster entered his school with him to confront the bullies. It was the same ‘monster’ that was with him when he destroyed his grandmother’s living room.

My favourite line of the whole book was when this ‘monster’ visited Connor, who out of defiance and showing bravery said, “you’re just a tree”, to which the monster responded, “and you have worse things to be frightened of”, foreshadowing the impending demise of his mother. I’m not going to lie to you, I nearly shed a tear at this point.

I believe this would be a hard one to read in a group but it is because of its difficulty that it would be most rewarding. This book gives a lot for looked after children and those who have suffered harsh circumstances to identify with, whether or not a parent has died. However, be warned: it would not be an easy read.

I think this is what Get into Reading is about: it is about big moments and how we should not shy away from tackling them. It is great reading a funny book with a looked after child but I have myself been a looked after child and believe me, there are some issues which need to be talked about: do not be afraid of tackling difficult issues out of fear. Let us gain a child’s trust through the means we have at our disposal: make them laugh with a book, make them happy with a book but also help them deal with difficult issues with a book… teach them to persevere.

“Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. [James 1:4]”

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 A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness is published today by Walker Books.

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