Burn by Patrick Ness

I have read two books by Patrick Ness, the unforgettable, award winning YA (Young Adult) A Monster Calls and one of his two novels for adults The Crane Wife.

The first one was written with the help of a powerful presence, in that it was the brainchild of the writer Siobhan Dowd , who didn’t live long enough to write the story herself, requesting that Ness take over and do it for her readers. And what he accomplished as a result was extraordinary, a dark tale featuring a monstrous yew tree that torments a grieving boy.

I wanted to read more, so chose The Crane Wife a modern retelling of a Japanese myth he read as a child. And enjoyed it as well.

Burn Patrick Ness Dragon FantasyDragon Symbolism

Seeing that he had a new book out and being in a reading lull, I decided to read this latest YA novel Burn, a book that features a world where dragons are employed as farm workers and a cult of Believers reveres them, one of the members has been told by their leadership and foretold by a prophecy that he must stop certain events from occurring.

On a cold Sunday evening in early 1957 – the very day, in fact, that Dwight David Eisenhower took the oath of office for the second time as President of the United States of America – Sarah Dewhurst waited with her father in the parking lot of the Chevron gas station for the dragon he’d hired to help on the farm.

Featuring two dragons,  it reads more like realistic fiction than fantasy, I’d hoped the dragon presence to be greater, but it seems we only need a couple to be taught a lesson. We like dragon energy and symbolism here.

 Symbolically the dragon brings us a message of strength, courage and fortitude, they are messengers of balance and magic, encouraging us to tap into our psychic nature and see the world through the eyes of mystery and wonder.

The book is set in the 1950’s in America, racism and a mistrust of foreigners brings two young people together; the Russian blue dragon Kazimir (it’s set in the Cold war era) intervenes when the racist, trouble-making Deputy sheriff steps out of line.

“A Russian dragon,” the Deputy said. “In my town. With the way the world is today. You a Communist, claw?”

“I am a dragon,” the dragon said simply.

“You a threat to my country?”

“I do not know. Are you a threat to mine?”

The dragon might be friend or foe, depending on whether you believe Sarah, her father or the sheriff. But for sure, it has something to do with the prophecy that is driving everyone towards their farm for a bit of a showdown.

A couple of FBI agents are involved, creating an atmosphere of suspense as they pursue the person believed to be about to create chaos in their world across the country.

As we read, we are not sure whether the dragons are a force for good or otherwise and that aspect of the mystery carries through to the end and left me wondering whether there might be a sequel to the story as there were many elements and questions I had, that could have been explored, that may have been held back deliberately. Though the mystery is solved, there is a desire to explore further the world that has been discovered.

Teenage Reading and YA Fiction

Interesting for fans of fantasy teenage fiction, introducing historical-political elements about society in that era, the way foreigners and those of colour are mistrusted and maltreated, paranoid attitudes about communism, gay rights and cult fanaticism.

And the superheroes are those of our imagination, fire-breathing dragons and innocent not-yet corrupted children.

Do you like to read outside your normal genre occasionally? Have you read Patrick Ness?

 

A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness

I read a wonderful review of The Crane Wife by Patrick Ness over at Annabel’s House of Books and I asked if it was YA(Young Adult) fiction, a genre I admit to being a little reluctant to read, not because there aren’t excellent books, but because part of the joy for me in reading is to be exposed to and learn, uncommon new words, adding to my private lexicon, words that would seem pretentious in teen fiction.

The_Crane_Wife__pentaptych_by_Crooty

There are always exceptions however, recently I loved Margarita Engle’s novel-in-verse The Wild Book and when a book sounds like it has qualities that intrigue me, a review by any blogger on my reading wavelength is sufficient for it to lodge in my mind and be called off a shelf when I spot it.  Annabel replied telling me that this was Ness’ first adult novel and recommended his YA trilogy Chaos Walking for a thought-provoking dystopian adventure and described A Monster Calls as phenomenal. That one lodged itself immediately in my mind.

On Saturday I went looking for the original version (French) of Ru by Kim Thuy at the library after reading an excellent interview by BookDragon only to discover that all copies were out.

A Monster CallsNaturally I couldn’t leave without a quick glance at the English language bookshelves and there it was, the beautiful hardback, fully illustrated copy of Patrick Ness’ A Monster Calls. I picked it up and headed for the exit, so as not to be tempted by more, since I have too much to read already, but as I left, my eye caught the display shelf where I spotted Quelques Minutes Apres Minuit, a familiar book cover in the same colours, yes, the same book with its French title and cover. As you can see, I brought them both home.

The idea for A Monster Calls came from the writer Siobhan Dowd, who was unable to complete the book tragically due to a terminal illness. Patrick Ness was asked to write the story, a remarkable challenge that somehow he managed to achieve without, ironically, the shadow of expectation or any other writerly monster hanging over or haunting him.

Conor O’Malley is thirteen-years-old and lives with his mother; his parents are divorced and his father remarried and now lives in America with his wife and baby daughter. Conor’s mother is in the latter stages of a terminal illness and Conor is coping with doing more things on his own, while becoming distant from his school-friends and attracting the attention of a school bully. On top of all this, his life is complicated by the nightly appearance of a tree monster, who doesn’t really scare him, as he tells it, he’s seen worse.

The monster wants something from him and Conor can’t or won’t offer it and yet he won’t be left alone until he does.

It is as if the extraordinary circumstance that brought this book about, invoked something magical that inspired Patrick Ness beyond what he might otherwise be capable of, because the book transcends the usual storytelling and creates a dialogue someplace between a brutal reality that is, and the unwanted but unstoppable future that will be, where an apparition takes on the role of enticing the traumatised teenager towards that excruciating path he must follow.

The entrance to the wonderful Mejanes Library in Aix-en-Provence

The entrance to the wonderful Mejanes Library in Aix-en-Provence

It is a breathtakingly raw journey that the author maps out, navigated with the extraordinary insight that only a vivid, courageous and mature imagination could channel.

It will leave you in awe.

Stunned.

A rare 5 stars from me.

Recommended for all ages.