Please bear in mind that it is going to be practically impossible to capture the pure excellence of this novel in my review – there are countless morals to be learnt and truly admirable and ingenious examples of metaphoric and cynical language in Patrick Ness’s A Monster Calls. It is genuinely a masterpiece. A heart-wrenching, bitter, darkmasterpiece of fiction.
Conor is the main-character, a teenage boy suffering from a lot of bad luck. His mother has cancer. His father has moved out and has a new family. And, as if things couldn’t be any worse, he suffers from incredibly frightening nightmares. Terrifying dreams which are described to feature a horrifying monster. But not the monster that Conor interacts with, in this story. That monster is in fact a Yew tree, and for a while, Conor can’t quite decide whether he exists, or whether he is simply just a dream.
The monster calls at precisely 12:07 every night and tells Conor stories. Guides him through the devastating deterioration of his mother’s condition. The stories are indepth and thought-provoking. The endings aren’t what you expect, but when you reconsider, it all clicks into place.
Meanwhile, Conor’s mother is in hospital and her son is devastated at the possibility of losing her. He clings onto the surreal meetings with the Yew tree monster, desperate for some comfort and advice from someone who wasn’t his Gradma, his dad or any of his school-teachers.
Finally the monster calls to tell Conor one last story. The nightmare which he had been suffering from for so long. The nightmare which the author have cleverly avoided revealing any spoilers for. The monster in the nightmare is described as ‘two giant fists’ trying to snatch his mother from him. The monster is her illness. It’s the cancer snatching her from him.
The Yew tree monster comforts Conor which reassurances of ‘this is what you really wanted’, etc. Conor wanted the pain to be over, but at the same time, he had desperately wanted his mother to live. He had lied to himself and the monster had called to ‘heal him’.
It is such a sad story. I will admit to shedding a few tears towards the end. It’s a devastating reality. Because cancer isn’t fiction. It isn’t a subject you can just gladly shut the book on and think ‘thank goodness that’s not real’. Cancer is exactly how it is described in this book. It is a monster. It was absolutely heart-breaking to read knowing that this happens so often to so many innocent families.