A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness
My Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars
Age Group: Middle Grade
Genre: Realistic Fiction, Fantasy
Publisher: Walker Books
Release Date: September 27th 2011
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.
The monster in A Monster Calls says that stories chase and bite and hunt, and can wreak havoc when they run loose. Which is completely true. Stories can fill you up with all kinds of feelings, can inspire you, and stay with you. And A Monster Calls, the story where the monster resides in, is a perfect example of this.
“Stories are the wildest things of all. Stories chase and bite and hunt.”
“Stories are wild creatures, the monster said. When you let them loose, who knows what havoc they might wreak?”
Conor O’Malley, a young boy who has to deal with his mother being afflicted with cancer and going through treatments, a father that lives in America and has a new family, and a school full of kids who don’t see him, has nightmares come with screaming and darkness. Until one night, after midnight, the yew tree takes the form of a wild and ancient monster and starts to walk. Conor tries to believe that the monster is just another one of his nightmares, even though evidence of the monster’s visits always appears on the floors when he wakes up. The monster wants a dangerous thing from Conor: the truth.
Conor is an endearing character that I adored. Staying by his side throughout the story, seeing and understanding his anger and sadness and confusion, was a truly wrenching thing to do, but I felt a strong love for Conor and his story that compelled me to not only read his story but also savor and reflect on it. You really don’t come across such well-written and honest characters that make you do that very often.
I found the presence of the fantastical and strange being that is the monster to be very comforting, surprisingly. I find it hard to explain so forgive me if my explanation of it is sort of useless. The monster is haunting, wild, and dangerous, but it felt like something to cling to. The monster’s stories that seem to capture the different parts of the nature of humanity, the way it seems to accept everything in the world as it is, and even how it spoke. I just found all these parts of the monster to be very comforting. And for me, that is what made the monster such of a unforgettable character.
The supporting characters should also be talked about in this review, I believe, because they are all so very important to the story. If even only one of them was absent, this book would not have felt as complete as it does now. Conor’s mother, Conor’s grandmother, Conor’s father, Lily, and even the bullies at Conor’s school. These characters are all so very important and many of them, like Conor’s mother, will linger inside your mind.
Patrick Ness’ portrayal of grief, loss, and the burdens they can be is flawless, and even brought me to tears. Really, the author wrote human emotions with care and skill. A Monster Calls doesn’t forcefully shove in sadness or any other emotion just to make the reader feel something, the book lets the emotions come naturally, which only makes the story have more impact.
The illustrations and prose fit into the mood and tone of A Monster Calls. Ness’ words flow and never stray from the important things. Jim Kay’s illustrations are intricate, using many things, including beetles and breadboards, to create the pieces of art, and capture the essence of the story perfectly. (Please scroll down to the bottom of this review to see a couple of the illustrations.)
The ending of this beautiful book is sad and made tears form in the corner of my eyes and fall down my cheeks, and it is an ending that will be reread over and over by me. I can’t imagine a better way to end a story like this one.
A Monster Calls is a beauty of a book that is inventive and just oh so incredible. Ness will make you fall in love with everything about A Monster Calls: the story, it’s gorgeous prose, the emotion, the illustrations, the characters, and the sad but beautiful ending. I fully believe that everyone should read this book, especially those who have experienced any kind of grief or loss.
One more thing: Siobhan Dowd created the story of A Monster Calls and its characters, but sadly died from breast cancer before she was able to complete the story. Knowing this fact only makes reading A Monster Calls a more emotional experience, trust me.