I know, I’m kind of late out of the gate with a New Year greeting. After a huge number of events last year (did you notice?), I took an extended break over the holidays – a bit of grog here, some wassailing there, punctuated with the odd party and quiet time catching up with The Hubby (which I needed, and so did he). It’s taken me a while to creak back into gear. . . but here I am!
Over the holidays, I also spent some quality time with teetering pile of to-be-read books and managed, ever so slightly, to shrink it. Since I’m officially a bookish person, and this blog is officially attached to my bookish website, I’m going to prattle on a bit about a YA book that I read just before the New Year: A MONSTER CALLED by Patrick Ness, which I snagged from my local indie, the Doylestown Bookshop* just days before the holidays.
Its title was the first hook for me. (As you might guess from The Flame in the Mist, I’m not only a bookish person, but a spookish one.) Then, its dark cover, moodily illustrated by Jim Kay, gave my creep-meter a thrilling surge. Jim’s drawings grace the whole book, and are fabulous – if you’re a fan of dark and soul-stirring, which obviously I am. Reading the blurb on the back, which starts, “The monster showed up after midnight. As they do”, and ends, “This monster is…something ancient, something wild. And it wants the truth”, I was already reaching for my wallet. Both voice and content were instant grabbers. I had to read this book.
What's more, it's "the first ever to win both the Carnegie Medal for literature and the Kate Greenaway Medal for illustration". Not that I needed to read that to be sold. High accolades to live up to, though – which it did.
Based on an idea by Siobhan Dowd, who sadly passed away in 2007 at the age of 47 before she could flesh it out, A MONSTER CALLS is the story of Conor, whose mother has cancer, and who is in denial about its severity. Beautifully told, it weaves the surface story with magical realism – the large yew tree that comes to life outside his bedroom window and plagues his nights, with its ultimate symbolism of healing. But the yew isn’t THE monster of this book. That is something Conor has dreamed, but won’t face – and we’re not told what it is. You might think, as I did, that it would turn out to be the truth about his mother’s condition. . . but it’s not. It’s more tender, and raw, and less pat than that. And a reminder that all monsters, if faced, can hold an invaluable gift.
Can you tell I loved this book? Love love loved. I’m awed. Inspired. What a kick into a new writing year!
I have a feeling it's going to be a monstrously good one.
A very HAPPY 2014 to one and all!
(*At time of posting, said local indie is heralding the imminent arrival of Bad Kitty to the store. Regrettably, this is not me.)