Sometimes it’s hard to know you’re upset until you’re just on the precipice of the cliff and the slightest chill of air will nudge you off. It’s an illness sometimes just to stay positive in the wake of trauma, even when the trauma is ongoing. My life has spun me a tad out of control in the past year. I have been changed and a little unhinged by the experiences, but this month was looking up for me. The phrase “fake it till you make it” was working for me, except when I half-smiled and then in my mind there was a glimmer of lie in the face.
The timing of this book coming into my life could not be more perfect. I, too, need a Yew Tree monster from the beginning of time to come walking. This is my second story by Patrick Ness. He wrote A Monster Calls when asked to take on a story idea of an author who had recently passed, Siobhan David. The illustrator was Jim Kay, and I can say right now that the profoundness of these illustrations with the text of this story is one of the best, THE BEST, graphic novels, that I’ve ever read.
By Ness, I’ve read The Crane Wife for book club a few months ago and really loved the weaving of tales together. It’s almost the adult version of A Monster Calls. In both stories, a call was made, silently into the bedtime prayers, and arrives a mythical creature that is completely neutral without any hint of sides to it. Both have a tale secondary to the tale of the humans they are interacting with. And these smaller tales tell the truths that aren’t being acknowledged in the larger tales.
I’m not going to lie, I cried those silent, sad tears at the end of this book. It wasn’t a bubbling over. It was just a sadness that lingered. In the Monster’s first three tales, I realized how easy it is to twist the kaleidoscope. How as humans, we can tell ourselves one thing when the truth is somewhere buried beneath that telling. How as humans, we can see a fairytale ending and without knowing any of the emotions of the characters or rarely the motives behind those emotions, believe that everything will work out just fine. How as humans, we categorize ourselves as glass half full and glass half empty when really there’s this notion that we either finish the drink, or let the dog spill it over. The monster had a way of telling the truth on all sides, when the boy only saw the guiltiest of human nature. The monster showed the vibrations after the earthquake where the boy only saw the initial jump on the Richter scale.
Our actions are a bit like Pay it Forward then. Every action doesn’t lay there dormant, it has a reaction. I guess this might be more like the darkness of Butterfly Effect. When the Prince decides to kill the love of his life, he does it to save a whole kingdom, one for many, but the boy sees only the girl as innocent victim. When the vicar is willing to give up everything for those he loves, his previous slander can’t save anyone. It’s a universal truth that people hold these grudges, but are they really ever fair. In who’s side does the most truth lie? Which came first the truth or the reaction to it?
I’m not sure. And I’m not sure if I’ve completely lost my way in this blog. A Monster Calls is a beautiful story of a boy with a mother that is his whole world, and when she becomes sick, the rest of it black holes. He and his mother have watched the Yew Tree in his background since they have lived in the house, and it is their commonality. When the Yew comes walking the boy has to choose to face himself and look in the mirror, and admit what’s hiding in his bottled up fists. Admit what’s behind the anger.
In that, the theme of this book is meant for anyone who’s ever had anger as a first instinct and the rest of the emotional spectrum behind it. This book is for any child who has prayed every night for a change and yet it doesn’t come in the form that they were asking. This is for people who believe that monsters too, can be good. This book is for the lovers of fairytales, the survivors of sickness, anyone who’s heart will grow three sizes with the flipping of a page.
I adored this story of monsters on call, the understandings of human nature that sometimes we look past because we’ve already made up our mind about a person, and the way people can be selfish, but also heartless too. We’re all still learning, and this book for me, was like a textbook.