Book Review: A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness

A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness

  • Method of Obtaining: I received my copy from the publisher.
  • Published by:  Candlewick Press
  • Release Date:  8.27.2013

At seven minutes past midnight, thirteen-year-old Conor wakes to find a monster outside his bedroom window. But it isn’t the monster Conor’s been expecting– he’s been expecting the one from his nightmare, the nightmare he’s had nearly every night since his mother started her treatments. The monster in his backyard is different. It’s ancient. And wild. And it wants something from Conor. Something terrible and dangerous. It wants the truth. From the final idea of award-winning author Siobhan Dowd– whose premature death from cancer prevented her from writing it herself– Patrick Ness has spun a haunting and darkly funny novel of mischief, loss, and monsters both real and imagined.

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My Review:

It’s not often a book moves me to tears.  Not the kind of tears that I sometimes shed because I believe that the book is calling for tears and it’s okay to push a few out – but aching, heart-break-showing tears that involve looking away from the page because I just cannot bear to continue to read until the weight has left my chest.  A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness woke something in me, a memory of a feeling, that overwhelmed me and felt as if it was choking me and in spite of … no, because of that awakening, I walked away from this story feeling as if a burden had been lifted from my shoulders.

A Monster Calls is a story based on an idea by Siobhan Dowd, an author I had previously had zero experience with.  But if she had ideas like this, ideas that sparked this beautiful, heart-wrenching story, then I can say with certainty that her works are being put on my TBR list…and then bumped to the top – as soon as I can get my hands on them.  Similar to John Green, Patrick Ness has crafted a story that deals with grief and hope and self-doubt and blame.  Ness took a simple concept, the monster, and turned that concept on its head, much like the monster does in the three stories he tells to Conor.

Then there is Conor.  It is not often that I feel like I need to physically reach into a book and hug the main character, but boy did I feel that urge over and over again as I read this story.  He is such a self-reliant young boy going through something that no child should have to deal with alone.  And while, as an adult, I understand the actions (although I did not necessarily agree with them) of the adults surrounding him, I felt such empathy for Conor because a child should not have to understand why his father can’t be with him, nor why his grandmother is the way she is.  Conor, in this story, is a great example of what it’s like when a child’s needs are not placed above all else and he has to find his own way.  If only every child in this world had the monster to hold his or her hand.

I don’t want to talk too much about the plot and winding path taken in A Monster Calls, but I do want to say that this book ranks near the top of the list for best books read this year.  I should have known when I saw it was Patrick Ness writing that my heartstrings would be tugged.  But even more so, I love the message this book conveys – that everything is not always as simple as it seems and sometimes you have to look at life from a different angle to understand what is truly going on.

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  1. Lovely review! Such a heartbreaking book. And yes, I agree that as an adult reading the book, we can understand why certain decisions are made, but that doesn’t mean that Conor doesn’t suffer because of them. This book make me cry, and I’m usually a “toughie”. I hope more people read this lovely, sad book.

    1. Thank you! Yes, my heart broke. I haven’t cried over a book in so long – it was so good to have that release and feel that connection again.

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