June 3, 2014

Epic Recs Review: A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness

Feature created by Amber and Judith, Graphic created by Judith
So it's the beginning of June and this is the review for my April Epic Rec. Clearly I'm a big failure. To be fair: Lisa and I put off wrapping up April, but I'm the reason this business didn't finish up during May itself. Honestly, Lisa's truly wonderful for putting up with my procrastination and laziness. But anyway, in case you missed our April Recommendations, you can find that HERE. And if you're looking for Lisa's blog, you can find that HERE.

PS: In case you were wondering, despite my inability to stick to schedule, Lisa and I are KILLING this Epic Recs things. Especially because she makes me read books like A MONSTER CALLS.

Title: A Monster Calls
Author: Patrick Ness
Release Date: September 27th, 2011
Publisher: Candlewick
Page Count: 215
Source: Purchased
First Reaction: Oh, are those slow, sad tears rolling down my cheeks? Yes? Well, just leave me here and comment on nothing, please.
The monster showed up after midnight. As they do. But it isn't the monster Conor's been expecting. He's been expecting the one from his nightmare, the nightmare he's had nearly every night since his mother started her treatments, the one with the darkness and the wind and the screaming...

This monster, though, is something different. Something ancient, something wild. And it wants the most dangerous thing of all from Conor.

It wants the truth.

[Summary Source: Goodreads]
After Conor's mom is diagnosed with cancer, Conor starts having these terrible nightmares he refuses to talk about. Then, as his mother's condition deteriorates further, a yew tree-shaped monster visits Conor and tells him three stories in exchange for a story from Conor. The yew tree monster also promises to help Conor while all of this story telling is going on.

A lot of this book takes place in Conor's head. I definitely felt like I was right up in there. I was sad, angry, and scared with him. There's also the family stuff. Conor's mom is sick, his dad remarried this very self-involved paranoid lady and lives in the States (Conor lives in the UK, I believe), and then there's Conor's Grandma who he has nothing in common with (until the end, but I won't spoil that line). And there's also the school stuff. Which is the misery school is always expected to be. 

This book is full of serious stuff. I mean, Conor's mom is dying and he's having these nightmares and there's this yew tree monster and no one at school really gets it. I mean, he has this friend Lily who tries, but she can't. And then there's this bully who basically treats Conor like a psych class experiment (and provides a really interesting case study on bullies that I'd love to have read as a Middle Schooler - granted I understood the implications of it all). All in all, no one knows how to help Conor. He has to figure out how to help himself. It's terribly sad and heart wrenching.

I suppose the yew tree is the sneakiness factor in this book. He tells Conor that he'll tell three stories and then after that Conor has to tell his story - the story of his nightmare. Somehow these four stories are supposed to heal. But Conor doesn't want to tell the story he knows the yew tree wants from him and he doesn't quite understand what the yew tree is getting at with his story. So it's up to the reader, through Conor, to figure it out. Which leads to the reader really putting themselves in Conor's shoes, which naturally leads to tears. I mean, please, Patrick Ness, stop with this sneakiness.

This book has no swoons. But there is intense emotion. Conor and his mom make me so sad. Conor and his grandma make me so worried. Conor and his dad make me want to break something. Conor and Lily make me sigh a little and hope for the future a little more. Basically, if there were swoons in this book my heart would explode from the feels so, better not.

Lisa had a couple of questions for me once I finished the book. Check them out!

1. Tell me true. Did you cry? 
Natch. (That's short for naturally.)

2. What element of the story did you find the most incredible? 
I liked the yew tree's stories and how they applied to Conor A LOT. And then I loved everything between Conor and his grandmother. But I think my favorite part was Conor and Lily. Because they're both trying to figure out what the heck they're doing and even at the end they don't totally get it together. But that's okay. And it's also the true nature of a YA novel, really.

3. Are you more or less likely to read more of Ness now that you've read this one?
Part of me is still afraid Lisa and I are going to hit a bad book, but with each passing month I grow more convinced of our bookish soulmate status. Not to mention, Lisa is the nicest, most encouraging, adorable human being in the world (whose Instagram is full of the sweetest pictures of her daughter Lucy, I mean, PLEASE). So I'd say I got pretty lucky here.

Yet another book I should have read ages ago. What did you guys think of this one? Or are you also behind and need some awesome in your life? Either way, let's talk about A MONSTER CALLS and it's awesomness in the comments below, okay?