Harrowing story of a hidden truth

PUBLISHED : Monday, 30 January, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 30 January, 2012, 12:00am


A Monster Calls
Patrick Ness, from an idea by Siobhan Dowd
Published by Walker Books
ISBN 978 1406311525

There is one thing you must know about this superb book before you open it: it is not a horror story, despite the title. The book goes beyond spine-shivering moments to deliver an emotional punch. Patrick Ness has woven a masterpiece from the unfinished writings of British author Siobhan Dowd, who died in 2007.

A Monster Calls centres on troubled British 13-year-old Conor O'Malley. His father lives in America with a new family, while his mother has been diagnosed with cancer and is going through debilitating treatments. Conor feels lonely and isolated. He begins to have terribly realistic nightmares where he is confronted by a monster.

One evening, he hears his name called from outside his bedroom window. He is stunned to see a giant monster standing in the garden. The creature turns out to be a yew tree that has come to life, its gnarled branches and trunk taking on the shape of a hulking man. The figure is not the menacing villain that has dominated his dreams, but is something wilder and more ancient, and it wants something from Conor: the truth.

Things move towards a thrilling climax, in which Conor is forced to confront this elusive truth. Compelling and harrowing, A Monster Calls is an exceptional novel that will move anyone who reads it. Just make sure you have a box of tissues handy as you get to the final pages.