Double Review: A Monster Calls and A Swift Pure Cry

Today we have a double-review. A Monster Calls, popular recently because of the movie, was written by Patrick Ness based on notes written by author Siobhan Dowd, who also penned A Swift Pure Cry.

monster-callsTitleA Monster Calls
AuthorPatrick Ness
Series: stand alone
Publish Date: September 27, 2011
Genre: YA Fantasy
Source: Purchased

Publisher’s DescriptionAn unflinching, darkly funny, and deeply moving story of a boy, his seriously ill mother, and an unexpected monstrous visitor.

At seven minutes past midnight, thirteen-year-old Conor wakes to find a monster outside his bedroom window. But it isn’t the monster Conor’s been expecting– he’s been expecting the one from his nightmare, the nightmare he’s had nearly every night since his mother started her treatments. The monster in his backyard is different. It’s ancient. And wild. And it wants something from Conor. Something terrible and dangerous. It wants the truth.

From the final idea of award-winning author Siobhan Dowd– whose premature death from cancer prevented her from writing it herself– Patrick Ness has spun a haunting and darkly funny novel of mischief, loss, and monsters both real and imagined.

Possible spoilers beyond this point.


Agent_Annie_100Agent Annie says…

I decided to read this book because I saw a preview at the movie theater. The preview looked absolutely amazing, with the coloring of the images as they bled on the screen like a watercolor painting. It didn’t hurt that Liam Nesson was the voice of the monster. When I searched for the book, there was a movie tie-in, so I got that one and have thoroughly enjoyed not only reading the story, but learning about how they went about making the movie. One thing I did learn was that the original hardback had pictures in it that spread across more than a single page spread, so I kind of wish I had bought that instead. When you read or listen to this book (or watch the movie), do make sure that you have a box of Kleenex because it is heart-wrenching.

I am particularly fascinated that the author, Patrick Ness, was asked to write the story based on the notes and discussions the late author, Siobhan Dowd who died young of cancer, had with her editor. The book is about a mom dying of cancer and it’s why this is such a powerful book: having bad emotions about bad situations is not a reason to hate yourself. This is not an easy lesson to learn, and Conner, the son of the dying Mom, has no adult in his life helping him to understand that. When the monster tells Conner that he comes walking not to heal the sick mom, but to heal Conner himself, the true power of the story comes out.

badge5v5So, now I have read the book, watched the movie, and listened to the audio version. You cannot go wrong by choosing any one of these paths to immerse yourself in the story and idea that Patrick Ness & Siobhan Dowd created.

swift-pure-cryTitle: A Swift Pure Cry
Author: Siobhan Dowd
Series: stand alone
Publish Date: September 9, 2008
Genre: YA Contemporary
Source: Purchased

Publisher’s DescriptionIreland 1984.

After Shell’s mother dies, her obsessively religious father descends into alcoholic mourning and Shell is left to care for her younger brother and sister. Her only release from the harshness of everyday life comes from her budding spiritual friendship with a naive young priest, and most importantly, her developing relationship with childhood friend, Declan, who is charming, eloquent, and persuasive. But when Declan suddenly leaves Ireland to seek his fortune in America, Shell finds herself pregnant and the center of a scandal that rocks the small community in which she lives, with repercussions across the whole country. The lives of those immediately around her will never be the same again.

This is a story of love and loss, religious belief and spirituality—it will move the hearts of any who read it.

Possible spoilers beyond this point.


Agent_Annie_100Agent Annie says…

Because I read about A Monster Calls, I felt compelled to read one of Siobhan Dowd’s other books just to see why she was such an acclaimed author and why her editor thought it was important to publish her ideas/story posthumously. I chose A Swift Pure Cry, which did not disappoint.

This story takes place in modern day Ireland, which didn’t feel all that modern because of how backward the treatment was of the children who had just lost their mother. The church failed the children, the community failed the children and so did the school system. The young girl, Shell, has to take on the burden of caring for her younger siblings and her drunken father, she is acting the adult, but doesn’t have an adult to turn to when she herself needs help after she discovers she’s pregnant. I find it compelling that Siobhan Dowd has themes of children faced with very adult situations and not having adults to rely on and how the children make choices to get through these ugly circumstances which aren’t always based in reality.

badge5v5I would highly recommend these books for adults and young teens. Adults so that we don’t forget that young people have complex emotions and understand what’s going on, but from a powerless perspective, and for young teens so they can understand that they aren’t the only ones experiencing these circumstances. Books, on many occasions, have proven to be the only “friends” that people have and good books can help you make it through really tough situations.

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About Agent Annie

I am a former Independent bookstore owner that created a 30 books in 30 minutes presentation for book clubs, libraries and avid reader groups. I specialize in short reviews that focus on plot, theme and discussion topics. I primarily read mystery/thriller, who-done-its and sci-fi/fantasy. I love stories in any format and will listen to an audio book as quickly as I would read a paper or digital version. I prefer books that make you think, don't have a predictable ending and tend to have some aspect that is outside the current norm. I tend to enjoy series once I am hooked on the main characters and the world and am very loyal. Some of the books I've enjoyed in the past are: Maisie Dobbs by Jacqueline Winspear, The Dragon Riders of Pern by Anne & Todd McCaffrey and The Sherlockian Graham Moore. I will also read ANYTHING by Stephen King. As a matter of fact, I wrote a graduate level paper on the leadership styles in The Stand. I will accept review requests.

Posted on January 27, 2017, in 5-Great, Agent Annie, Contemporary Fantasy, contemporary fiction, Review, Young Adult and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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