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

Flip

Alex couldn’t have said what woke him that morning.

How do you get used to living in someone else’s body? Martyn Bedford manages to use a well-trodden trope (body swap) for a bittersweet coming of age story about two very different teenage boys.  And how you only know what you have when it’s gone.

Alex is a teen of the side-lines of his own life. He’s not actively bullied, but he’s not without abuse either. Not many friends, not many excitement. Until he wakes up in a strange bed, in a strange house, thousands of miles away from his own home. He’s not even in his own body any more, having slipped into the life of another teenage boy.

What follows is trying to adjust while trying to understand what happened, seeing what went wrong in his life and realizing that even something that looks better (popularity, money, girlfriends) can be empty or not all that desirable.

The “scientific” experience of everything doesn’t completely fit in with the themes of getting to know yourself and the grass isn’t always greener on the other side, but it isn’t stretched in such a way that it becomes obnoxious. Flip is a sweet story that’s smarter than it might look from its summary.

Flip, Martyn Bedford, Walker Books 2011

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