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 one 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 is something different, though. Something ancient, something wild. And it wants the most dangerous thing of all from Conor.
It wants the truth.
“There is not always a good guy. Nor is there always a bad one. Most people are somewhere in between.”
A Monster Calls is unlike any story I have ever read. It is purely metaphorical and is so filled with truths that one reading alone does not suffice. I had to read through the story two of three times and really think about it before it finally all clicked.
There are multiple layers to the novel. There is the depiction of grief; the depression, the questions, and the hope. But there is also a portrait of the human soul and the duality that lies within. How love and hate can exist simultaneously along with good and evil, hope and despair, happiness and sadness, guilt and acceptance. In everyone exists both these sides and as the monster says, what matters is not what you think, but what you do. Everyone has negative thoughts, but if you can push them aside and be a truly good person, that is all anyone can expect from you.
Conor’s life is a mess. His mother is dying from cancer, his father left them for a new wife and all he has is a grandmother whom he doesn’t get along with. He is alienated and bullied at school and suffers terrible nightmares. Yet the story never feels weighed down. It is heart achingly sad but never depressing because even in the darkest hours, there is always hope.
Illusions cannot last, and deceiving oneself is only a temporary reprieve from pain. When things go wrong it is human nature to create a web of lies to sustain us and shield us from the truth, when in fact we should be accepting it. Not that it is by any means easier. I was guilty of this while I was reading, with my unrealistic hope for a happy ending.
It took me a while to figure out what the monster was and when it finally hit me I was stunned. It was in that aha moment when everything snapped into place that I realized how brilliant this book is. The monster that is turning him into a monster, with stories that parallel his life. How the more he tries to deny it the more he needs it. And how it can all be solved by the truth. How every little detail, even those deemed insignificant have a role in the plot. It couldn’t have been done better.
The illustrations accompanying the story are breathtaking. Dark and creepy, they add to the story and I feel it would not have been the same without them there. They highlighted key points and made it easier to visualize the story, not that I required any help. The writing is simple but it reads with a grace and flow and is so beautiful I wanted to keep not just individual quotations, but whole pages.
Though I thankfully couldn’t relate to what Conor was going through, I could relate to his emotions. This is a book that I will never forget and will be constantly recommending. It is a book that everyone should read, so if you haven’t you are missing out on a truly stunning and heartbreaking piece of literature.
“You do not write your life with words…You write it with actions. What you think is not important. It is only important what you do.”
“But what is a dream…?…Who is to say that it is not everything else that is the dream?”
“Sometimes people need to lie to themselves most of all.”
“…[I]t does not matter what you think, because your mind will contradict itself a hundred times each day…Your mind will believe comforting lies while also knowing the painful truths that make those lies necessary. And your mind will punish you for believing both.”