So to say I was excited when his next book was announced is a bit of an understatement. The book is based on an idea from author Siobhan Dowd who sadly died before she was able to bring it to fruition. Ness states in the introduction that he wasn't going to write a book in the voice of Dowd because doing so wouldn't honor the author or the idea. Instead, he let the idea and characters created by Dowd carry him away.
Here's a description of A MONSTER CALLS from Goodreads:
The monster showed up just 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... The monster in his back garden, though, this monster is something different. Something ancient, something wild. And it wants the most dangerous thing of all from Conor. It wants the truth.
I ordered it from England because I couldn't wait. I wasn't sure what kind of book I was getting but when it arrived, I was blown away by the beauty of the cover and the illustrations inside. Honestly, the black & white illustrations provide a somber tone to the book that elevates this to something beyond a mere book.
A MONSTER CALLS isn't anything like the Chaos Walking trilogy. However, Ness' humor and insight are all over it. I've only read one of Dowd's books, THE LONDON EYE MYSTERY, and I can say that while her voice isn't as present, she is in this book's DNA. It's a real testament to both authors.
The story itself isn't what I expected. It's like a cross between Shel Silverstein and Neil Gaiman's THE GRAVEYARD BOOK. It's about a boy whose mother is struggling with cancer. A monster arrives one night at 12:07 and informs the boy that he'll tell 3 stories. Once done, the boy will then have to tell one story of his own. One truth about himself. The prospect of which scares the boy senseless. There are plots involving his grandmother and bullies at school and a girl. This is such a short, sweet, complicated book that I was left in tears and in awe at the end.
I don't want to spoil this book by saying anything else except that Patrick Ness has once again earned my utmost respect by writing a touching book that tears out your heart and puts it back together again. He's a rare author and A MONSTER CALLS is a rare book.