October 2, 2011

Reading Buddies: A Monster Calls

Photo courtesy
 by Patrick Ness and Siobhan Dowd

Over at Goodreads, members of The Filipino Group have the reading buddies thing: a member asks people to read a specific book with him/her, with a certain number of chapters or pages per day, and then they share their comments/ideas/thoughts about the chapters they've read on a thread specifically devoted to the purpose. I've participated in three (The Handmaid's Tale, The Grapes of Wrath, and A Passage To India), so far, and each time, the experience was enlightening. Sharing thoughts and occasionally having a friendly debate about a book that you've simultaneously read with someone else is a brilliant idea.

What's different about this particular buddy read is that the "buddy-readers" have the option to post their answers either on the thread devoted to it on Goodreads, or on their blogs. Plus, discussions will center around the questions posted by Tina, who has read this book ahead of the participants, and who (I guess) will serve as some sort of moderator for the group. As per usual with buddy reads, the book will be divided into chapters per week, and each reader may link the other readers' posts on their respective blogs.

One other thing that's, shall I say, special about this buddy read is the fact that it's a Patrick Ness book. Yes, Patrick Ness of the Chaos Walking series fame. Last year, I read the first book in the series, The Knife of Never Letting Go, and didn't appreciate it all that much. So I knew that reading the other two installments in the series was out of the question; I even gave away my copy of the first book at the TFG meet-up last April.

So what prompted me to read another Ness book? Tina vouched that it was "very, very different". Thanks to my good friend Aldrin, who graciously shared his e-book copy (which I think was the clincher in my decision to join the buddy read for the book), I started reading as soon as I can. Two, three chapters in, and I found myself genuinely engrossed in Conor's story. Without waiting for the start of the buddy read, I finished reading it in no time at all.



So. Anyway.

For this week's questions, as Tina posted on the Goodreads thread:

Part 1 - From A Monster Calls to Grandma

1. "You're a good boy," Conor's mother tells him. "I wish you didn't have to be quite so good." (p. 17) What do you think she means by that?

2. Lily was once Conor's closest friend but now he can't forgive her. Why? Is he right to feel betrayed?

3. The monster talked about 4 stories, 3 from him and one from Conor. The one from Conor should be the truth. What do you think is this truth? (Feel free to speculate :D To those who've read this already, you can write what you first thought this truth was.)

And here are my answers:

1. I think Conor's mother meant exactly that: that he, Conor, was a good boy, and that she wished that he wasn't "quite so good" because it pains her to know that someday, if not sooner then later, she would succumb to her illness and leave him. It could be that, in her heart of hearts, and despite all the treatments that buoyed her hope that she will be cured, she knew that her time on earth was running out, and that one day, Conor will have to be all alone - something that no "good boy" deserves.

2. Lily and her mother were supposed to be the closest people to Conor and his mom, hence, they were privy to the latter's condition. But Lily, for some reason that you or I can only deign to guess, told one person at school, and then that person told somebody else, and soon enough, the fact of Conor's mom's illness spread like wildfire. With practically every soul in school let in on his mother's situation, Conor felt alienated from his classmates; it seemed like people didn't know whether to pity him (although majority, I think, felt that way), or to sympathize with him, or whether to say anything to him at all. Conor did not only feel different; he was different. And if I were him, I would definitely feel - as I feel that I do have the right to do so - betrayed. Sharing confidences is no easy thing; betrayal is the worst sin.

3. Having read the book in its entirety already, I will just write what first came to mind when I read about the fourth tale that the monster required of Conor, which is that, eventually, he will have to face and accept his mother's death. When I was reading about Conor, and the things he did in order to cope with his mother's sickness, he came across as someone who was sorely in denial of things. Although he knew, and was able to deal with his mother's condition, one day at a time, the thought of what lies ahead, in the near future, scares him so, and this was something that was difficult for him to deal with head on. It's presumptuous to state that he was acting that way because of his age, but I will still not discount the possibility.

I will just put in short, sweet answers for this week's questions, as I'm sure the next chapters will require more contemplation, and my answers may not fit in a wee bitty paragraph. Until then, happy reading! Here are the other links to my buddies' answers:

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