One of the best novels you'll read this year.
Patrick Ness' recent track record has been stellar to say the absolute least, what with him having produced the Carnegie Award-winning Chaos Trilogy of The Knife Of Never Letting Go, The Ask And The Answer and Monsters Of Men in the past few years. Now, he has turned his attention to a much subtler genre with A Monster Calls, a beautiful standalone piece concieved from the concepts of the late Siobhan Dowd penned shortly before her death at the hands of a cancer. Of course there's an element of bittersweet feeling to the whole experience in that you know that Ness has to try and make his own novel out of what he had from Dowd, and yet that never stands in the way of what to me can be regarded as amongst the best works of teenage fiction of all time. The plot focuses on young boy Conor, who is dealing with his mother's disease by talking to an imaginary monster who haunts him in the evenings. I won't go into specifics of the overall narrative as it really would spoil things, but sufficed to say that Ness perfectly portrays Conor's innocence and naievity, not to mention his feelings towards his mother, her condition and himself in terms of how he initially reacted to the news from the doctors. It's rare that authors have the audacity to venture into such hazardous areas of modern society that have caused so much grief in recent times, yet as fully expected he handles the emotions and implications of cancer with a completely dignified, respectful, uninsulting approach that is sure to entice even those readers who have come into contact with those afflicted by the terrible disease (the tragedy nowadays is that there are very few people who can say they have known no connection with it). As well as the spot-on characterisations and the strong, compelling and utterly moving storyline, there are a handful of wonderfully illustrated images littered throughout the piece that are every bit as captivating and masterfully crafted as the text that precedes and follows them, a unique quality that is wholly uncommon in most modern teen fiction. That A Monster Calls has been nominated for both the Carnegie and Kate Greenaway medals comes as no surprise to me- Patrick Ness has once again produced an absolute masterpiece with this stunning tribute to Dowd, and deserves recognition for both his intelligent, emotive characterisations and narrative and his realistic, bold drawings that bring his stories to life like never before. Let's hope that the CLIP judges are open to awarding an author the same award for two consecutive years, as A Monster Calls deserves every bit as much praise as the Chaos Walking trilogy recieved, if not even more still!