Book Club: A Monster Calls, pages 142-158

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Welcome to the comments and discussion of the Young Adult Cancer Book Club!  We are reading A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness, after an idea inspired by Siobhan Dowd.  Catch up on pages 1-22, pages 23-43, pages 44-65pages 66-85, pages 86-107, pages 108-126, and pages 127-141.

Let’s get started!

“I No Longer See You”

Commentary by Marie:

The conflict between Harry and Conor comes to a head in this chapter. Conor is filled with desperation and pain as he focuses on this new treatment for his mum from the yew tree, when Harry and his sidekicks arrive to taunt and bully him once again. Conor is no longer afraid and possibly even welcomes the interruption but then Harry surprises him by saying he’s figured Harry out and then he offers his hand to shake. Then he utters the devastating words “I no longer see you” before walking away as if Conor is invisible. The monster appears as the lunch hall clocks reads 12:07; it is time for the third tale.

Commentary by Natalie:

This chapter starts with the grandma silently indicating that the new treatment is not working. Then things with Harry come to a head when he finally realizes what he can do to punish Connor more than beating him which is to completely ignore him.

“The Third Tale”

Commentary by Marie:

This is a short tale about a man who was effectively, though not actually, invisible, who one day becomes tired of being unseen. The yew monster asks “And if no one sees you, are you really there at all?” which must echo how Conor is feeling and may explain his first moment of violence, destroying his grandmother’s sitting room earlier, and his ongoing ambivalence about class work, as he feels invisible and struggles to give voice to his fears and emotions. Conor asks the monster how the man in this third tale made people see him and the reply is “he called for a monster” as Harry is shoved across the dining hall by the monster. Suddenly the whole school is watching, though no one will make eye contact as if they are embarrassed. Harry taunts Conor, actually mentioning his mum, and says Conor wants to be punished for some terrible secret. It seems Harry does understand Conor, but not enough to see the beating coming.

Commentary by Natalie:

The Third Tale was the most difficult for me to read because you can see that Connor is hurting but doesn’t know where to take out his aggression. In this tale the monster is talking to Connor as he is physically manifesting the tale by attacking Harry while the whole school watches.

“Punishment”

Commentary by Marie:

We are told that Conor beat Harry so badly that he ended up in the hospital. Yet, Miss Kwan and the headmistress are reluctant to hold Conor accountable. Miss Kwan mentions Conor’s “special circumstances” (but doesn’t come right out and say Conor’s mum is ill which makes Conor wince). Now we understand that Conor’s perception is that the monster beat Harry though Conor could nonetheless feel the blows as if he had given them and through the haze he could see the other schoolchildren looking on in shock and terror. Conor attempts to tell the headmistress that it wasn’t him that did it and the headmistress doesn’t seem to have a response to that, though Miss Kwan notes that the entire lunch hall saw Conor giving the beating.

These chapters where Conor becomes violent reminded me of another book I read recently of a child who had horrible tantrums – it’s described from the point of view of the child and he felt there was a monster inside him that sometimes would get so big and uncontrollable and then would completely consume him during his fits. It almost seems that the yew monster’s story world that Conor gets transported to is a little like something that consumes Conor so he doesn’t fully see and feel his destructive actions. This, in a way, gives Conor permission to express his rage and helplessness.

The conclusion of this incident is both unexpected and yet conceivable. The headmistress tells Conor that normally this behaviour would be punished with immediate expulsion, which causes Conor relief because everything would make sense again. But then the headmistress lets him go with only the vague threat that someday they will talk about this incident, but not today. Conor has to go back to class as if everything is normal; Conor is no longer invisible but he feels more isolated than ever.

Commentary by Natalie:

The headmistress has to decide how to punish Connor for beating Harry at school. Connor instantly feels relief that he will get in trouble which will provide a distraction from what is going on with his mother but quickly realizes that they are not going to punish him and he will continue to be the kid that everyone stares at in school.

Join in next Monday for comments and discussion on the next 20 pages of the book!

Thanks for joining us for pages 142-158 (“I No Longer See You,” “The Third Tale,” and “Punishment”) of  A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness!  Join in next Monday for the next chapters of the book!

We will talk about a few chapters each Monday until the book is done.  If Monday happens to be a holiday, then the post will publish on Tuesday.  Once we finish the book, we’ll use one more Monday to talk about general feelings from the book and anything else you’d like to discuss.  We’ll also have a video chat book club discussion at the end!  Join in, in the comments every week!  Also, there will probably be spoilers so read along with us!

Excited about the young adult cancer book club?  Have any suggestions for future reads?  Let us know!