*Disclaimer: I read this book and wrote this review about a month ago, almost immediately after my cat Ivan died. So while this review is honest, it might not reflect how I would’ve reacted to it had I read it under different circumstances. Thank you for understanding.*
I almost don’t even want to write a review for this book, because I know that it’s going to be one of those books that’s really hard to explain my feelings for. And I don’t want people to throw rocks at my head for not liking it as much as I probably should’ve.
I honestly don’t really understand why I didn’t emotionally connect with this book like everybody else who’s read it seems to be. Maybe it’s because I don’t have a lot of experience with cancer. I haven’t ever had somebody that I was close to go through that kind of a long, painful disease that leaves all sorts of tragedy in its wake. I wouldn’t say that I have no experience with death though…in fact, our 3-year-old cat died suddenly yesterday morning (and of course I randomly decided to read this book right after having to go through that!). It’s probably bad timing, but I can’t just stop reading because something horrible happened, and this just so happened to be the book that I wanted to read at the moment.
But the problem I had is that this book isn’t really about death. I mean, it’s not really a problem in itself, it’s just that it was a lot different than what I thought it was going to be like. I was expecting to be able to relate to the main character even more because of Ivan dying, but the themes of this book were more like acceptance, honesty, right and wrong, family, feeling invisible, etc. The emotions that I was going through while reading this were really strong because of Ivan, but because they were so strong, I wasn’t able to feel all of the other things that the book wanted me to feel. I wasn’t even sad about Conor’s situation at all…I actually had trouble feeling bad for him at times, because often his behavior was very selfish, self-destructive, and hard to relate to. If this book had been more about the pain that comes from loss and loneliness, I think that the fact that Ivan just died would’ve made A Monster Calls a very, very emotional read, but because it was coming from a different angle (one that I think I actually would’ve enjoyed had I been reading it under different circumstances), I had trouble shifting my emotions over to be able to connect with the story and characters properly.
What I did like about this book, though, was the ultimate message the book sends with its surprising and beautiful metaphors, the absolutely gorgeous and intriguing illustrations that really made the story come alive in a very unique way, and the fact that it is extremely readable for all ages. While I personally didn’t love it as much as I thought I would, I would still highly recommend it, and maybe it’s something that I’ll come back to one day when my heart is in a different place.