One of the new features I want to start on my blog this year is a spotlight series, where I highlight a person, place or thing from the bookish world that I love. It could be writers, illustrators, publishers or anything else of the like, and to start things off, I thought who better to shine the spotlight on than one of my favourite authors: Patrick Ness.
At the time of writing this post, Ness has so far released nine full-length works, seven of which I have read. He has written books aimed at both adult and YA audiences, though is probably best known as the author of A Monster Calls, which was very recently adapted into a movie starring the likes of Sigourney Weaver, Felicity Jones and Liam Neeson; the script having also been written by Ness himself. Most recently, he wrote a Doctor Who spin-off series called Class, which aired on the BBC, and announced a 10th book which is slated for release in May 2017.
The main reason for my love of Ness is his writing style, which is understated yet beautiful; his stories always infused with a gut-punch of emotion. His eclectic catalogue of work has seen him explore several themes, though common recurring topics include self-worth, friendship, sexuality, conflict, mental health and love. I also admire him greatly as a person, with him often speaking frankly of his belief that anyone can achieve their dreams and spearheading a recent charity campaign that saw writers match pledges from the public to raise more than £600,000 for Save the Children, in aid of refugees.
I am yet to read his short story collection, Topics About Which I Know Nothing, and his debut novel, The Crash of Hennington (truth be told, I’ve been deliberately putting them off because I don’t like the thought of not having more of his books to get to), but with regards to a recommended reading order for the books I have read if you are new to his work, personally I would suggest the following:
- A Monster Calls: Firstly, this is accessible for a wide age range, but it’s also a good indicator of the kind of beautiful imagery and strong emotion that much of his work features. It’s fairly short, meaning it wouldn’t require a big time commitment to see if you like his style, and with a stunning edition illustrated to whimsical and eerie perfection by Jim Kay (which is definitely the one I recommend you pick up) and a movie adaptation having just been released, there’s plenty to absorb yourself in. The story centres around a young boy as he attempts to cope with his mother’s increasingly poor health, whilst being visited by a monster at night who pledges to tell him stories.
- The Chaos Walking Trilogy: If you try A Monster Calls and like it, then I would head for his three book series next (probably my favourite of his work) which opens with a boy named Todd, who lives in a world populated entirely by men who can all hear each other’s thoughts in a chaotic mass known as Noise. But when he stumbles upon an area of complete silence and a secret that reveals everything he thought he knew to be a lie, he must flee for his life. It’s a breathless, heartfelt tale about the devastation of war and the struggle to hold onto your sense of self in dark and difficult times.
- The Crane Wife: Written for an adult audience, this one is a little quieter and more contemplative than the others I’ve mentioned, but in my opinion his most eloquent in terms of the actual writing. Inspired by an old Japanese folk tale, it is a story about love, loneliness and the power of art as a means of great beauty.
- More Than This: This book opens as a teenage boy wakes in a deserted street that he believes to be hell after seemingly drowning in the ocean. He must explore this strange place to uncover the truth and figure out if he can ever get back home.
- The Rest of Us Just Live Here: In all honestly, this was my least favourite of his books so far, but that doesn’t mean I didn’t like it, as it’s still an enjoyable and worthwhile read for its positive and sensitive portrayal of both LGBT characters and someone living with OCD. Not necessarily as hard-hitting as his other work, this one takes a more light-hearted approach, affectionately poking fun at the tropes of YA by flipping the ‘chosen one’ concept on its head and having the story focus instead on the wallflowers that are just trying to avoid getting involved in the dramas of the apocalypse and survive the perils of adolescence instead.
Here’s hoping Mr Ness shares many more stories with us in the years to come.
Have you read any of Ness’ books? Which is your favourite?