“The monster showed up after midnight. As they do. But it isn’t the monster Connor’s been expecting. He’s been expecting the one from his nightmare, the nightmare he’s had nearly every night since his mother started her treatments, the one with the darkness and the wind and the screaming… This monster, though is something different. Something ancient, something wild. And it wants the most dangerous thing of all from Connor. It wants the truth.” – A Monster Calls, Patrick Ness.
I’ve never been a big reader. Maybe it’s because I’m far too obsessed with stoytelling through either moving or still imagery. But every once in a while, I pick up a book that deeply affects me. So it came as a shock to me when I discovered that the collective work of one particular author was having a profound affect on me.
I first came across A Monster Calls whilst researching what J.A. Bayona was directing next. I’m a huge fan of The Orphanage. It’s a tragically beautiful and fantastical horror/drama film (something I should certainly fill another blog with). I became somewhat intrigued when reading the synopsis of Bayona’s upcoming new film, A Monster Calls, adapted from the book by acclaimed author, Patrick Ness,
Ness is categorised as a writer for the Young Adults genre (yes, that’s somehow a genre of it’s own). This would usually instantly put me off. The connotations of this genre scream Twilight, The Hunger Games, The Maze Runner etc… All have their own merits… But are just not my taste.
Ness’ work is a genre in and of itself. He’s developed a voice far more unique, challenging and fascinating.
His books, to me, don’t sit in the Young Adults genre, but rather are about being a Young Adults, and most importantly, told from, their point of view.
And it’s here that Ness is truly succesful. In many ways, his work reminds me of Spike Jonze’s film adaptation of Maurice Sendaks, Where The Wild Things Are. David Eggars and Jonze fleshed out a story from an extremely short concept and made it speak from a child’s point of view. This is something that we as adults often presume to understand, but in truth have totally disconnected ourselves from. Being able to tap into that voice and mindset is vital to being able to understand and nurture our children. Because, let’s face it – We really can’t remember what it’s like to be a child.
A Monster Calls follows young Connor as he comes to terms with his Mother battling terminal cancer. Each night Connor is visited by a Monster, in the form of a tree. The Monster then tells him three stories each night, under the understanding that afterwards, Connor will tell him a truth.
This is already tough, real-life territory. But Ness handles it with respect and love. And here’s why:
The story itself is based on a concept by Siobhan Dowd, whose premature death from terminal cancer prevented her from physically writing the book. She then trusted Ness to continue her work after her passing.
That in and of itself is quite the story. I finished reading A Monster Calls whilst travelling on a National Express coach to London. I had the joy of embarrassing myself by flooding my face with tears. I’m talking full on floods of tears here… Full on.
The Orphanage is extremely akin to A Monster Calls in tone. Bayona delivered such a fantastic horror story, that was anchored beautifully by an emotional story about family. This seems to be a recurring theme with his work, The Impossible also explores the emotional connectivity of a family (this is also worth checking out, a powerful film based on a true story during the horrific tsunami of 2004). So it stands to reason here that Bayona will deliver a worthy adaptation of Ness’ book.
It also interests me to discover that Ness also wrote the screenplay – I would absolutely love to read this one day, purely with interest of studying how Ness has adapted his own work.
I’m also delving into Ness’ Chaos Walking Trilogy too. These too have a similar voice and are equally as hard-hitting as A Monster Calls. Again, more stories that have moved me to tears. In fact, Ness’ entire back catalogue is full of praise. It’s not often I feel excited to follow the work of one author. I will be keenly following his work and digging deeper into his previous collection.
Also, and equally importantly – You must check out the stunning illustration work of Jim Kay. His illustrated version of A Monster Calls is hauntingly sublime. I do hope they use Jim’s work as a basis for the design in the film adaptation.
About Patrick Ness (from Wikipidia)
Patrick Ness is an American-born British author, journalist and lecturer who lives in London and holds dual citizenship. He is best known for his books for young adults, including the Chaos Walking trilogy and A Monster Calls.
Ness won the annual Carnegie Medal from the British Librarians both in 2011 and in 2012, for Monsters of Men and A Monter calls, recognising each as the best new book for children or young adults published in the U.K. He is one of seven writers to win two Medals (no one has won three) and the second to win consecutively.