Thursday, June 7, 2012
A Monster Calls - Under the Microscope
Shop Indie Bookstores
This is a gorgeous book -- and gorgeous in many ways.
First, if you're a lover of books, of books as physical things, of books as artwork in paper and glue and ink, this might be for you. This is a beautifully crafted book. It's heavy, and has a firm weight about it, a solidity and presence. It's here. It can't be ignored. Much like the monster in the story. And the book has fine paper, a gloss that somehow has a matted feel and appearance. The layout and design is perfect, the cover is stunning, and the artwork that fills it is just as good. The shadowed wonder and menace of the art perfectly suits the story.
It even has as apt epigraph: You're only young once, they say, but doesn't it go on for a long time? More than you can bear. Hilary Mantel
Yes, this book is about that, about the pain of youth and loss and fear, and how the carefree idles of childhood are often a lie. And it's about stories, about the stories that make us and shape us and change us. It is about the truth we tell in stories, and the truths we hide.
Conor's mother may be dying from cancer, but he doesn't want to think about this. Everyone at school knows and their pity follows him around. And then a monster -- something ancient and wild -- comes to call. It knows about the nightmares and it has stories to share. And it wants something from Conor: the truth.
This is a beautiful novel, elegant and spare and perfectly captured. It's advertised as a YA novel (isn't everything these days?), but it's one of those books that anyone can read. A lot of books for young people portray simple emotions simply. My favourite of such books, though, portrays complex emotions simply. I think this simple complexity is what draws in adults and yet still allows younger readers to properly experience the story. Sometimes books are just books and stories are just stories. Labels and advertising and marketing and buzz are unimportant. There is just a book, a creature of paper and ink and glue, and it is coming to call on you, reaching a dark hand in through your bedroom window.