Review: A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness

Thursday, June 6, 2013 9:00 AM
Title: A Monster Calls
Author: Patrick Ness, Jim Kay (Illustrator) (Inspired by an idea from Siobhan Dowd)
Published: September 15, 2011
Publisher: Candlewick Press
Genre: Children's Fantasy
Pages: 215
Source: Purchased
Rating: 5 stars
Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble
“Stories are wild creatures, the monster said. When you let them loose, who knows what havoc they might wreak?”
― Patrick Ness, A Monster Calls

Synopsis
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. (Goodreads)
My Thoughts
Back in the day, I was a BIG Roald Dahl fan. At the start of A Monster Calls, I was reminded of The BFG, short for The Big Friendly Giant. In both books, a large monster, or giant, comes in the middle of the night to the bedroom window of a child, or teen, who is having trouble sleeping. After that, all similarities between these two stories cease, and A Monster Calls veers off onto a darker path. It almost made me long for the adventures of Giant Country because A Monster Calls is not an easy book to read, but it is still such a rewarding, meaningful read nonetheless.

In A Monster Calls, Conor's mother has fought cancer for several years now, and while she has always gotten better before, the treatments aren't working as well anymore. Conor is having trouble facing this reality, and he refuses to believe that his mother may be gone soon. With his father living in another country with a new family, bullies at school, and constant nightmares of a monster disturbing his sleep, Conor is barely holding it together. That's when the monster arrives. Instead of feeling terrified, a natural reaction to seeing a monster, Conor could care less. This monster is nothing compared to the other monster that awaits him in his sleep.

A Monster Calls brilliantly explores the darker sides of reality by entering into fantasy. For Conor, the reality that he will lose his mother soon is too painful to accept. I loved how the monster's storytelling and visits forced Conor to slowly emerge from his state of denial. Despite the elements of fantasy, A Monster Calls is very realistic and emotionally moving. In fact, the slivers of fantasy help the reader better understand Conor's suffering. The story was beautifully written with all these genius subtleties; I couldn't help but be blown away. After I turned the last page, I realized that there were so many lessons to be learned from this book and I was taken completely unawares by each and every one of them. None of them were screaming and clamoring to be heard. They were skillfully worked in so that they snuck up on you.

Conor felt unbelievably real to me. I may not have wanted to dive headfirst into his sorrow, but I was helpless to put down the book. The story captured my attention and held it until the ending. Conor was far from a static character. I witnessed his rage, his depression, and his cries for help and attention. I watched as he endured this difficult time in his life all by himself. I shared in his frustrations and his vehement denials. I really sympathized with Conor, and I think A Monster Calls will deeply resonate with anyone who has ever lost a loved one or has felt overwhelming grief. Just be prepared with a box of Kleenex.
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I enjoy nothing more than a well-written story, and A Monster Calls offers up a few thought-provoking, fascinating tales. These stories blur the lines between right and wrong, black and white. I was anticipating a predictable ending for each of these, but, boy, was I ever wrong. These stories raise some interesting questions, leading you to doubt all your moral beliefs.

A Monster Calls was inspired by Siobhan Dowd's original idea. Unfortunately, Dowd was unable to write this book before she died from breast cancer:
"She had the characters, a detailed premise, and a beginning. What she didn't have, unfortunately, was time." ― Patrick Ness
Ness wrote the book and did a damn good job bringing Dowd's dream to life. I like to think that this story made sure it was heard, and I am so happy it was written despite the sad loss of its intended author. A Monster Calls was an exceptional read that I would recommend to anyone and everyone.




16 comments:

  1. Why do you say it wasn't an easy book to read? Also please make Dean stop crying.

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    1. It was just a very emotional, painfully realistic book, but it was still worth the time and a wonderful read!

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  2. Sounds amazing. One I definitely intend to listen to. I'm just waiting for the right mood to come to me.

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    1. Good idea. You definitely have to be in the right mood :D

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  3. I'm very interested in this book. I've read some other positive reviews and I'm pretty sure I will love it (despite the crying. I'm sometimes so weak) Great review!

     Mel@thedailyprophecy.

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    1. I hope you love it and I can't wait to read your thoughts on it! And I'm always crying when reading books. lol I think it's a sign of a good book if it can inspire such emotion in someone! :D Thanks Mel!

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  4. I'm so curious about this one since everyone seems to love it! Thrilled that you do too, Courtney - I'll hopefully check it out this summer!(:

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    1. Hope you enjoy it, Keertana! I'm excited to read what you think. It's an emotional read but worth it!

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  5. I've read so many brilliant reviews for this book, but I think I'm just so scared about giving this book a try. Hence the reason it's been sitting on my shelf for ages. This is such a beautiful review Courtney and I'm so glad that you enjoyed it. Also I wasn't aware that this was inspired by Siobhan Dowd, so thanks for sharing that info with us! :)

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    1. Thank you so much Jasprit! I hope you find a chance to read it soon! It's so sad that Siobhan Dowd passed before she could write one last book, but Patrick Ness does a wonderful job telling this story. I also put off reading this for some time, but you won't regret picking it up :D

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  6. Great review, Courtney! I recently added this book to my TBR list and I see nothing but stunning reviews for it. I'm afraid that I'll cry way too hard once I start it.

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    1. Thank you, Sarah! :) It definitely is a tear jerker. Fortunately, I didn't cry throughout the whole book, only at certain points, but it was very emotional and such a lovely read as well. I'm glad you plan to read it and I hope you love it!

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  7. I've heard great things about this book, but I don't think it is the one for me. I generally shy away from sad books about cancer and parents dying, etc. I'm glad you enjoyed it. Great review!

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    1. I don't blame you, Natalie. These are difficult books to read. I sometimes wonder why I put myself through it, but I do end up enjoying these types of books for some reason. Thanks Natalie! :D

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  8. I bought this book SO long ago, but it's still just sitting on my shelf unread! =S I wish I'd picked it up sooner - I think it's going to be my next read after my current book. Beautiful review, Courtney.

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    1. I do it all the time. I have books I bought years ago that are still sitting on my shelf unread. :O Thank you Nikki! I really hope you enjoy it when you do read it!

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