A Monster Calls

The monster showed up just after midnight.

A fairy tale, not Disney-fied, about a boy and his mother and a monster in the shape of a yew tree. Patrick Ness took the idea from the passed away Siobhan Dowd and ran with it wonderfully. Another YA book (it’s advised for 13 and up) that delivers and shows there’s more than Twilight or Divergent.

Conor’s mother is ill, seriously ill. She knows, he knows, his whole world knows but they all ignore it and that’s the thing he can’t handle. And than there’s a nightmare attacking him at night and a monster in front of his window, every night at 12:07, making not even his own bed a safe place.

Patrick Ness keeps his honest brutality away from this story that winds and weaves like a wisp of (fairy tale) mist. Something is building, and it will be tough to not keep turning pages until it’s clear what precisely.

A Monster Calls, Patrick Ness, Walker Books 2011

Monsters of Men

“War,”says Mayor Prentiss, his eyes glinting.

The final book of the Chaos Walking Trilogy gives you more of the same. Here might be mild spoilers from earlier books.

Todd is still -less and less reluctantly, even though he tells himself otherwise- on the Mayor’s side. The Mayor seems to be cleaning up his act after all, and most people -including Todd- just want to see the best in other people.
Viola is still on the opposite side, trying to juggle The Answer with a part of the convoy arriving and not letting them be claimed by either side.

Patrick Ness takes a lot of time to show Todd’s doubts and how ugly people can become because of war. He also repeats scenes from earlier books to show that the protagonist really can’t kill. It was a bit dissappointing after two previous books full of (small) surprises in world- and character building.
Luckily, the Spackle finally get a voice, showing more about the world where this all happens. And a lot of violence happens, because this is war and terrorism yet somehow it completely passed me by, no matter how gruesome the details.

Near the end Ness shows why his trilogy received several awards. He turns a few things around, has a few surprises and the ending isn’t from How To Write 101.
My only thought after finishing this series is how it could be even better if the author hadn’t clung to ‘YA’ and had made this less of a soul search through teenage eyes and more a story of how a new world is created. Maybe we should cherish Todd’s naivity.

Monsters of Men, Patrick Ness, Walker Books 2010

The Ask and The Answer

“Your Noise reveals you, Todd Hewitt.”

Back again in the world of the Chaos Walking Trilogy. After searching for hope at the end of the brutal trip in The Knife of Never Letting Go The Ask and The Answer has no place for hope, continuing with the story of what happens after Todd and Viola are caught by the people they were trying to outrun.

Todd gives in pretty fast, stops his struggle and tries to separate himself from the world. On the other side, Viola fights more bitterly and desperately, which also doesn’t make for a happy story. It makes the book a tad more sluggish and repetitive up till the point the reader might exclaim ‘Not again!’
Does this make this a bad story? Of course not. There is still the world and the people and ideas in it that carry the story, while next to that it’s hurting but understandable to see how Todd retreats into himself. There’s no place for laughs any more, and -like most second books in a trilogy- it’s pretty clear that it’s all a build up for the final part.

So burn through this one as you did with the first -with your teeth on edge and hope against hope (and realizing how scary a battle between sexes can be). Realizing that the two most important characters are just teenagers make their horrors more believable and might stop you to think about what you’d do.
While in the mean time I curse myself for finishing this book on Easter Sunday and therefore being unable to get the final book from the library.

The Ask and the Answer, Patrick Ness, Walker Books 2009

The Knife of Never Letting Go

The first thing you find out when yer dog learns to talk is that dogs don’t got nothing much to say.

In The Knife of Never Letting Go the reader follows Todd, an almost thirteen-year-old living in a pretty much post-apocalyptic world. He can cope with that. He can’t cope with being the last boy in a town full of men and having to live listening to other men’s Noise. Noise is someone’s every thought, being broadcast because of something that happened when the first people arrived in this world. And one day, as stories are wont to do, everything goes wrong and Todd has to run. With his talking dog.

Patrick Ness lets the reader in the dark for a (almost too) long time, skirting away from explanations or only letting Todd in on the information, not the reader. It’s one of the very few problems I have with this YA fantasy novel that sketches a sad and hard world with even harder people in it, showing once again that a human being doesn’t need all that much too lose its humanity. Another thing that irked me that Todd (and the other characters) seem to be remarkably resilient, walking away from several fights that would have put an ordinary person down, but that can be appointed to this being another world with slightly different humans.
Besides those points, The Knife is a whirlwind adventure with adversaries and dangerous (but gorgeous) scenery bursting at the seams. Yes, Todd can be the most obnoxious pre-teen, but there is a learning curve that will make the reader excuse him things.

This book is also part of a trilogy, something I usually shirk away from because there has to be a very good reason for an idea to become a trilogy besides ‘Three books could make more money than one’. In case of The Knife, I want to know more of this world, and not for the sole fact that Patrick Ness left it with a huge, horrible cliff hanger. This book grades well in the fantasy and in the YA category.

The Knife of Never Letting Go, Patrick Ness, Candlewick Press 2008