If You Like: Cancer * Fables * Honesty
A Monster Calls is the story of Conor and a monster he meets who helps him to cope with his mother’s terminal cancer. It is a blend of the fantastical and the tangible. Conor’s mother has been battling cancer for years, but it is evident to the reader that she has taken a turn for the worse. In his struggle to deal with her imminent death, Conor calls a monster who tells him three stories and helps Conor to find his internal strength.
This story is every bit as sad as you imagine it to be, but it is somehow not depressing. Even though Conor struggles, he learns to live with his sadness with guidance from the monster. Conor acts out in ways that many of us would like to when we experience grief. These actions are rare, and in general Conor handles his woe in a mature and adult way. The way in which those around him have no idea how to help him through his grief will strongly resonate with those who have survived similar situations.
Often we look for a hero to save us when we are in pain. Instead of a savior, Conor gets a monster. Instead of carrying him through, the monster teaches him how to deal with his pain. The stories the monster tells Conor contain lessons everyone can learn. The underlying message is that things aren’t fair, and sometimes good people get hurt, but you can choose your own reaction. Being brave doesn’t always mean refusing to lose. Pain and loss can seem like a nightmare, but they can also teach you a lot about yourself and help you find your strength. Reading this story felt like reading a part of my own story. It reminded me of loved ones that have passed, but somehow made the pain of losing them feel beautiful. (I do not want to neglect to mention the hauntingly beautiful illustrations by Jim Kay. The book would not be complete without them.)
If you have ever experienced a profound loss in your life, read A Monster Calls.
Ness, Patrick. "A Monster Calls: Inspired by an idea from Siobhan Dowd" (Patrick Ness). Massachusetts: Candlewick Press, 2011. Kindle Edition.