A tour de force, on so many levels. I greet any novel by Patrick Ness with immense anticipation, knowing that it will be a reading experience like none other. A Monster Calls explores the psychological underpinnings of Conor, a teenage boy who has lost a father to divorce and faces losing his mother to cancer. A circumstance that would rock anyone to their foundational core, but especially a teenager in the throes of the academic and adolescent obstacle course of ordinary life. But these are extraordinary circumstances, and Ness weaves a tale rich with layers of symbolism, paradox, and ultimately, understanding of grief and the incredible power love and acceptance. All of which resonates even more, since Ness stepped in to finish an idea inspired by Siobhan Dowd, an author who succumbed to breast cancer at 48. Illustrations by Jim Kay bring the images within the psyche of Conor to remarkable reality, and the graphic novel nature of the book allows the reader to experience Conor's palpable, symbolic dream world. This was reminiscent of David Almond's Savage, a novel with illustrations, of grief, rage and destruction.I read this in an afternoon and an evening, taking small breaks, due to the intensity of the work. It moves briskly along, almost thankfully so, because it is brilliant reading and difficult to experience. It takes a virtuoso to meet the difficult challenges inherent in such a project, and what Patrick Ness has delivered is an extraordinary gateway to understanding the process of love and loss.