15 February 2018

Voice and Genre in Young Adult Literature: A Monster Calls (2011)

Trade paperback, 205 pages
Published 2013 (originally 2011)
Acquired November 2016

Read March 2017
A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness
Inspired by an idea from Siobhan Dowd
Illustrations by Jim Kay

This is a very good book, but I found myself unable to make much of it in the context of my young adult literature class. Like Holes, it's not exactly YA, maybe more middle grade. The back cover says, "Age 12 and up." Plus it has pictures!

Unlike Holes, its indeterminate status didn't really lead anywhere interesting. (This is what I get for assigning books I haven't actually read!) Back when I discussed Holes, I cited Roberta Seelinger Trites, who says that "[t]he chief characteristic that distinguishes adolescent literature from children's literature is the issue of how social power is deployed during the course of the narrative. In books that younger children read [...] much of the action focuses on one child who learns to feel more secure in the confines of her or his environment, usually represented by family and home" (2-3). Well, that's pretty much A Monster Calls to a T. There's some stuff about bullying, blah blah blah, but mostly the book's about Conor's inability to accept his mother's impending death and to get along with his grandmother. Along the way, we see some fantastically moody illustrations by Jim Kay, and get some nicely postmodern stories about storytelling, but really this is a middle-grade book through and through, and thus a poor fit for my course, even as an outlier. (I did get a couple excellent papers about its use of fantasy, though.)

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