As predicted, it has been difficult to get anything written here.
Oh! I read the Chaos Walking series by Patrick Ness, which was followed by seeing him speak and buying and reading his A Monster Calls.
Chaos Walking was an absolutely fascinating read. It has a focus on the over-share of information that kids today deal with. Ness has stated that one of the driving themes in the novels comes from the notion that kids nowadays aren’t able to grow up privately anymore – their every action is documented on the internet by their peers (or it feels like it is). Truly, this idea fascinates me.
To back up – the series starts with The Knife of Never Letting Go. The protagonist is a young boy named Todd, who lives in Prentisstown – a frontier town on a different planet that is entirely populated by men. The women all died in some tragic event in the past.
The biggest difference with this planet is that somehow, all men can constantly hear each other’s thoughts. A man has his individual Noise, as it is known, and all together, they make a collective Noise. It seems absolutely nightmarish and Ness does a wonderful job revealing why telepathy would be the worst super-power ever. No one wants to hear everything… every. single. thing…. that is in someone else’s head. You know how, if you try to meditate, your mind is just racing in all different directions? You’re trying to “breathe in. breathe out”, and think calm thoughts all the while part of your brain is just stubbornly resisting and stressing out about every single other thing you have to do? With Noise – ALL of that is shared with the person sitting on the yoga mat next to you and vice versa, and with everyone in the room too. Everyone in the building. The block. The entire city.
Anyhow, Todd is the last boy in Prentisstown, and events lead him to making a hasty exit and starting an epic journey filled with some truly fascinating characters.
That’s a total cop-out, I know. The thing is, I loved reading it in total mystery and confusion and would hate to ruin that for anyone who decided to read it based on what I wrote here. Suffice it to say, the books are highly emotional and a happy ending is definitely not guaranteed.
Ness is a dark, twisted writer. He has a capacity for writing wonderfully joyous moments, but damn if they were brief and followed by devastation. I can see teenagers enjoying the complete dichotomy of the two emotions – I think a lot of them feel in such extremes in their lives that it would make total sense to them to have a book reflect that. When things are calm, it is because they are numb, not peaceful.
I found him somewhat hilarious because when I saw him speak, he’s a jovial young man with a very upbeat presence. Not at all morbid or any other way you might imagine a truly dark author like him to be. I loved hearing him talk about writing and writers. He really wanted the audience to be full of writers, you could tell. I liked hearing him talk about his process and encouraging others to find their own process and just give everything a TRY. It really made me want to write.
A Monster Calls is his other book – I bought it after seeing him speak. I had him sign it! I have a signed book with a personal note in it! This makes me incredibly happy! It’s a beautiful book, with some fascinatingly haunting illustrations. The illustrations are not typical for YA novel, but they’re incredibly fitting. It is geared to a slightly younger age than Chaos Walking, but it is also quite dark. Not anywhere near as violent, but very sad. It’s quite beautiful.
Okay. Basically – I highly recommend Patrick Ness’s literature. He’s a very interesting writer with a wonderful respect for his young audience. In NO WAY is his stuff just for YA readers – it’s definitely mature enough for adults, especially as the series progresses (much like Pullman’s His Dark Materials series).