Book Review: A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness


Heartbreaking tale about facing up to your worst fears

About the Book

Description (courtesy of Goodreads): ‘The monster showed up after midnight. As they do.’ But it isn’t the monster Conor’s been expecting. He’s been expecting the one from his nightmare, the one he’s had nearly every night since his mother started her treatments, the one with the darkness and the wind and the screaming… This monster is something different, though. Something ancient, something wild. And it wants the most dangerous thing of all from Conor. It wants the truth.

Book Facts

  • Format: Hardback
  • Publisher: Walker Books
  • No. of pages: 216
  • Publication date: 27th September 2011
  • Genre: Children’s Fiction

My Review (5 out of 5)

This is a book I shall remember for a long time that works on so many different levels. Yes, it’s categorised as a book for children and the way the story is told is accessible for a child. In the edition I read, the wonderful illustrations add to this accessibility. But the fact that it has also been embraced by adults is testament to the skill of the writer in communicating a message to which anyone who has ever faced the actuality or prospect of loved one can relate.

It seems to me the monster represents Conor’s fears and anger about his mother’s illness and the prospect of losing her that he finds so hard to face. But also his guilt that he can’t save her and guilt at the agonising ‘truth’ the monster says he must face up to.  So much guilt, that Conor actually craves punishment.

‘He was going to be punished. It was finally going to happen. Everything was going to make sense again…Punishment was coming.’

The tales the monster tells convey the message that there are other ways of looking at things, that people can’t be divided into good and evil and that their intentions and feelings may be hidden and contrary to their public face.  Could Conor have got it wrong about his awful Grandma after all? Of the many striking scenes is that in his Grandmother’s house when Conor unleashes his pent-up anger – and gets a surprising reaction.

Apart from the book’s ending, I found one of the most moving aspects to be Conor’s sense of loneliness and isolation. Because people don’t know what to say to him, they say nothing, to the point where he feels as if he’s invisible.

As Conor’s mother says, ‘The green things of this world are just wondrous, aren’t they?’ and it’s so clever that the monster should be formed from a yew tree which is a source of drugs used to fight cancer.

A wonderful book.

This book forms part of my From Page to Screen Reading Challenge. I shall be doing a separate post with my comparison of the book and the film.

To buy a copy of A Monster Calls from, click here

In three words: Powerful, moving, involving

NessAbout the Author

Patrick Ness, an award-winning novelist, has written for England’s Radio 4 and Sunday Telegraph and is a literary critic for The Guardian. He has written many books, including the Chaos Walking Trilogy, The Crash of Hennington, Topics About Which I Know Nothing, and A Monster Calls. He has won numerous awards, including the Guardian Children’s Fiction Prize, the Booktrust Teenage Prize, and the Costa Children’s Book Award. Born in Virginia, he currently lives in London.

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