A Monster Calls

A Monster Calls was written by Patrick Ness and first published in 2011. It is a dark fantasy story that tells the tale of a young teenager who is forced to come to terms with his mother’s terminal illness. The novel stands alone, so you do not have to read any of the author’s other work to fully appreciate it.

Connor O’Malley is not having the best time of things. His mother has been sick for a long time and her treatments do not seem to be making her better as quickly as he hoped. This causes a lot of tension for him at school. The other kids mostly seem to ignore him, as though they’re scared about how fragile he is. Teachers aren’t much better as they seem to think that he needs babying. No matter what he does, he does not seem to get in trouble. The only person who does see him is the school bully – Harry – who now finds him to be an easy target.

Things are worse still for Connor at home. Although he thinks he does a good job of caring for his mother, no one else seems to agree. His grandmother is quick to move in to take charge, bossing Connor around and treating him like a little kid. His father, on the other hand, is barely there. He has a new life in America now and does nothing but pay fleeting visits in which he tells Connor to be brave.

It is 12:07 at night when the monster first comes to Connor. The creature forms itself out of an old yew tree and seems surprised that Connor is not more afraid of him, yet it is not the scariest monster that he has ever seen. Yet this monster has come with a purpose. It will return to visit him and tell three stories from previous times it has walked the earth. When all of these stories are told, it expects Connor to tell him one thing in return – his truth. And that is the most frightening thing of all.


More Than This

More Than This

This book is another difficult one to review and so apologies if this post is a little shorter than normal. More Than This was written by Patrick Ness and first published in 2013. It’s a philosophical science fiction story about a teenage boy who awakes to find himself in an abandoned town. The novel stands alone and so you don’t have to have read any of Ness’s other novels to fully appreciate it.

Seth remembers drowning: the icy chill of the water and the sensation of his bones breaking as he smashes against the rocks. Yet he somehow doesn’t die. He wakes up in an abandoned English town which he soon recognises as the place where his family lived before moving to America. As he explores the barren streets, he’s forced to relive the worst memories of his childhood. Most specifically, the time a terrible incident befell his brother. One that was entirely Seth’s fault.

Seth also starts to remember the incidents that led up to his death: his romance with another boy, the unexpected outing of his sexuality, and how these events alienated him from his closest friends. He starts to wonder if the town is actually Hell, existing to make him relive the lowest points of his life over and over for all time.

However, he soon starts to realise that may not be the case at all. He is not the only person roaming the wasteland. There are other teenagers who have woken up to find themselves in that lonely world and they are being relentlessly pursued by a mysterious being called the Driver. Together, they try to piece together their broken memories to find out if the town is real, if they are dead, or if something else is happening to them…


The Ask and the Answer

The Ask and the Answer

Please note that this review may contain spoilers for its prequel, The Knife of Never Letting Go. You can read my review of this novel [here].

The Ask and the Answer was written by Patrick Ness and first published in 2009. The novel follows on from exactly where The Knife of Never Letting Go (2008) left off and so you really need to read the series in order to have any idea of what is going on. The Ask and the Answer was awarded the 2009 Costa Children’s Book Award and is followed by Monsters of Men (2010).

Todd came to Haven in search of a cure but has found only more suffering. Mayor Prentiss has managed to take control of the city in a bloodless coup and renamed it New Prentisstown, appointing himself as its sole ruler. Todd finds himself immediately separated from the critically wounded Viola and forced to work alongside his enemies. The only hope he has to cling to is the Mayor’s promise that she will be safe as long as Todd remains obedient.

Meanwhile, Viola wakes up in clinic staffed entirely by women and quickly learns that Haven was not the utopia that it seemed to be. Although the women did not meet the fate of those in Prentisstown, they were still always viewed as second class citizens. Things seem bleaker still as Mayor Prentiss’s men begins to round up the women, passing strict laws regarding when they can be seen in public.

Yet not everyone is eager to subscribe to the Mayor’s new world order. A resistance movement known as the Answer appear in the night, planting bombs in public places in order to disrupt the regime, and a lone Spackle slave begins to plot his violent revenge against those who have wronged him…


The Knife of Never Letting Go

The Knife of Never Letting Go

The Knife of Never Letting Go is the first instalment of the hugely successful Chaos Walking Trilogy. First published in 2008, it was Patrick Ness’s first novel for young adults and won the Booktrust Teenage Prize, the Guardian Award and the James Triptree, Jr. Award in the same year. It has since been followed by two sequels:  The Ask and the Answer (2009) and Monsters of Men (2010).

The story is set on a planet known as New World which was settled by religious pilgrims around twenty years prior to the novel. Todd Hewitt is twelve years old and is only one month away from becoming a man. He lives in the isolated community of Prentisstown – a place where all the women have been killed by a deadly plague. As a side effect of this disease, all animals have also been granted the ability to talk (though most do not have much to say) and the men have been made unable to hide their thoughts from each other. The sound of their inner-most thoughts, called the Noise, is heard endlessly throughout the town and so there are no secrets between them.

One day, while exploring the swamps around his home, Todd comes across something impossible – a patch of silence within the Noise. Fleeing home in a panic, Todd’s Noise inadvertently reveals what he has discovered to the rest of the town. This is a problem. The Mayor and Aaron, the town’s preacher, have always sworn that there is no silence anywhere. Now Todd has uncovered their lie.

When he reaches home, Todd discovers that his guardians have been preparing for him to escape the town for a long time. The sudden danger that has befallen him serves to speed their hand. As the Mayor’s men ransack his home, Todd is forced to escape into the wilderness with only his dog, Manchee, for company. Although he does not understand what is going on, he is given a map to the next town and a simple instruction: You must warn them.


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