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What Hooked Me–A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness Story inspired by Siobhan Dowd who passed before the completion of the book)

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Megan: Loss is such a difficult subject. It’s hard to handle it in a book in a way that doesn’t make it feel too light, but also doesn’t destroy the experience for the reader or the sense of hope we need from stories. That’s why The Monster Calls drew me right in. For those who’ve lost family, it deals with loss in a very specific, expert way. By using an metaphor larger than life.

That’s why I love metaphors in stories, especially in this instance. I love books that know how to use them, how to grow them into something so monstrous and wonderful, that we can’t barely deal with the emotions that come from being exposed to them. I think sometimes, it’s really hard to use metaphor in a way that’s compelling for a young reader. But in dealing with the loss of someone you love, this book showed us that monsters have all sorts of names.

John: When the Monster comes calling, young Connor O’Malley expects a nightmare, instead he gets stories. The Monster plans to tell Connor three of them, and not unlike Scrooge’s ghosts, they will be delivered on three separate visits. Hearing that his intentions do not frighten or even impress Connor, the Monster then tells him: “Stories are the wildest things of all…Stories chase and bite and hunt.” Of course, all writers know this truth as we are often told: Let your characters lead you. That, however, is much easier said than done. What hooked me was Ness’ ability to let his story appear to the world as wild and unpredictable while secretly keeping it on a well-concealed leash.

While we all love a good twist, stories or parables that contain a life-message certainly aren’t that. They are common and even cliche in many tales as they serve the somewhat predictable purpose of leading a protagonist to a much needed catharsis. Had Ness followed this predictable path, the reader would have reached an equally unsatisfying conclusion. However, it is a twist in each tale that gives ultimate meaning to the struggling young boy. Megan pointed out the beauty of the use of metaphor, but the symbolism in the Monster tree’s tales stands equally strong. The best stories are wild–as wild and unpredictable as the life of a young boy facing the frightening unknown of life with a dying mother. But it’s in the stories’ twists that we find truth, the same uncaged truth that will ultimately set Connor free.

Jess: “Fairy tales are more than true: not because they tell us dragons exist, but because they tell us that dragons can be beaten.” – Neil Gaiman’s paraphrase of G.K. Chesterton at the beginning of Coraline.

I must admit I picked this book for the title and the monster on the cover. But it was not the horror that I’d expected. This book wasn’t something I was looking for, but I needed it. It was the human truth and fairy tale that hooked me. The monster may have been a lie, but the fear was real. This story helped me believe (“belief is half of all healing. Belief in the cure, belief in the future that awaits.”- Ness) that I could also defeat my own guilt, isolation, or pain and take proper, honest action when necessary.  

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  1. Feeding the Monster in Your Story | Whats Write About This - […] group just completed a read through of A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness (get more thoughts here http://whatswriteaboutthis.com/what-hooked-me-a-monster-calls-by-patrick-ness-story-inspired-by-siob…. In…

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