Conor O’Malley is both a typical and atypical young boy. He’s quiet, has virtually no friends, and lives with his single mother after his father left them. But Conor’s mother is ill and Conor has to take care of both of them. It is a lot of work for such a young man. And there’s another problem Conor faces: constant nightmares of losing his mother to her illness. Conor cannot imagine living without his mother.
In their backyard, from the kitchen window, there is an old yew tree. Conor’s mother loves the yew tree, but Conor thinks it is a bit creepy. He doesn’t quite understand where his mother’s affection for the tree comes from; Conor simply doesn’t think much about it.
Until the day the yew tree comes alive and speaks to Conor. The tree makes a deal with Conor: he will tell Conor three stories, at the end Conor must tell the tree a story. But the tree doesn’t want just any story. He wants Conor to tell him about his nightmares. For his part, Conor thinks it’s all just another nightmare.
Until he finds leaves on his floor in the morning. A dream wouldn’t leave something tangible behind…unless it wasn’t a dream?
As Conor struggles to come to grips with his mother’s failing health and how it will change him, he listens to the stories of the yew tree. But are they just stories? Did they actually happen? And what do they mean for Conor?
A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness was originally the brainchild of Siobhan Dowd; unfortunately, she passed away due to illness before it could be written. Ness does a fantastic job writing this short narrative about a boy who must learn that losing the thing he loves the most is difficult but not the end. And that sometimes letting go is for the best.
I really enjoyed A Monster Calls, perhaps far more than I expected to. While short in length, it packs a lot of introspective thought and emotion into it. I often felt myself empathizing with Conor as I read his story. It is quite different from the high fantasy stories I have been reading of late, but it is quite a read and one I recommend to anyone who has had any interest in it.
My rating: 4.75/5