Conor looks out the window and sees the normal sights: the church on a small hill, the nearby train tracks, and the ancient yew tree rising from the center of the graveyard. Clouds temporarily obscure the moon, but when its light returns, Conor can once again see the yew tree. Which is now in his backyard.
It is the monster.
The monster tells Conor it is “everything untamed and untameable. I am this wild earth, come for you, Conor O’Malley.” Conor asks what the monster wants from him, but the monster responds, “It is not what I want from you, Conor O’Malley. It is what you want from me.”
Conor’s mother is terminally ill, and Conor is no better at navigating the emotions that come with the prospect of losing a parent than any other 13-year-old. But facing that daunting future helps explain why a monster in his backyard isn’t too scary. It helps readers understand why, when a monster says he’s come for him, Conor can nonchalantly respond, “So come and get me then.” It’s why Conor can shrug off a monster’s roar with “Shout all you want. I’ve seen worse.”
Yet despite the title A Monster Calls, the monster insists he’s only responding, that Conor called him. The monster informs Conor he will return on further nights to tell him three stories. “And when I finish my three stories, you will tell me a fourth. You will tell me a fourth, and it will be the truth. Not just any truth. Your truth.”
This is the truth from the nightmare, the truth that Conor has vowed to never tell anyone.
A Monster Calls is a powerful novel and memorable for many reasons, but two things come first to my mind. The interaction between Conor and the monster is one of the book’s strengths. A monster who could destroy Conor in a heartbeat patiently responds to Conor’s questions and demands and lack of respect. Second, I love the fact that the monster’s stories are not cut and dried parables with obvious morals, that these stories cause Conor to explode, “That’s a load of crap!” and the monster to demand, “You think I tell you stories to teach you lessons? You think I have come walking out of time and earth itself to teach you a lesson in niceness?”
But as the monster says, “Stories are wild creatures. When you let them loose, who knows what havoc they might wreak?”
A Monster Calls is a wild creature. Let it loose. Watch the havoc.