I've read a lot of books in my 19 years. And while it is hard for me to pick a favorite author, I recently tend to land back at Patrick Ness. A British-American author and journalist, Ness has a very interesting way of looking at the human condition in relation to young adults without any sort of patronization.
The first book of his that I read was The Knife of Never Letting Go, which is the first book in his highly acclaimed yet not widely known Chaos Walking trilogy. I loved it, and went on to finish the series by my junior year of high school. About three years later, I read three more of his books, all of which were amazing. But the one that has stuck with me - and hopefully will never leave me - is A Monster Calls .
I've been hearing about A Monster Calls for years. It has reached critical acclaim, and was recently adapted into a film (in theaters now, here's the trailer!). I was not sure what to expect upon reading it this summer, and I must say that it is easily the most important work of fiction that I have ever read.
A Monster Calls tells the story of 13-year-old Conor, who is dealing with his mother's battle with cancer which is evidently coming to a quick end. One night at 12:07am, a Monster appears outside Conor's window and proceeds to explain that he will return at tell Conor three stories and after, Conor must tell a fourth. Between these stories, Conor must deal with the real people within his life as well as his mother's illness.
These three stories are taken from the Monster's lifetime, and they each teach a lesson that Conor can learn from and can all be applied to his current situation. And in the end, these stories help Conor cope with and understand what is happening to him.
The work itself was an idea from Siobhan Dowd, who at the time was diagnosed with terminal cancer. After Dowd's death in 2007, Ness picked up the story and put it onto paper. Illustrated by Jim Kay, this work is a literary and artistic masterpiece that necessarily fills a void.
The importance of this work lies in its message and ultimately in the way Ness writes. He clearly and without insult explains the grieving processes in a way that a child can understand. The stories that the Monster tells Conor explain to him that everything he is feeling about his mother's condition is okay -- his fear, anger, and eventual desire for it to just be over. All of these feelings are okay, and they are natural.
As someone who experienced the death of a classmate at a very young age, it is hard for a child to truly understand what death means. And, as someone who experienced the death of a grandparent in my senior year of high school, essentially waiting for someone to pass is a painful experience that does not get easier to live with in time. But this book provides an explanation in a way that is as easy to grasp as it is beautiful.
I absolutely adore this book, with everything that I am. I have not stopped thinking about it since the day that I read it. Thank you, Patrick Ness, for beautifully and eloquently writing this necesary piece of fiction. And thank you, Soibhan Dowd for having the idea to put it out into the world.