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A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness

A Monster Calls (edition 2012)

by Patrick Ness, Siobhan Dowd, Jim Kay (Illustrator)

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
2,0962313,147 (4.4)255
Title:A Monster Calls
Authors:Patrick Ness
Other authors:Siobhan Dowd, Jim Kay (Illustrator)
Info:Walker (2012), Paperback, 216 pages
Collections:Your library
Tags:fiction, children's, Carnegie Medal, magical realism

Work details

A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness

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    elenchus: A Monster Calls and Jellaby share a similar premise, as well as thematic concerns with isolation and childhood depression. They're each illustrated, but the words are as important as the images (and vice versa), and though they treat of sobering concerns, are ultimately good-hearted and optimistic.… (more)
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» See also 255 mentions

English (225)  German (1)  Catalan (1)  French (1)  Dutch (1)  Italian (1)  Spanish (1)  All languages (231)
Showing 1-5 of 225 (next | show all)
From the cover and title, I expected this book to be a horror story. It is, in a way, since the protagonist's mother is dying of cancer, but it's primarily about dealing with fear and loss. In the process of grieving in advance, Conor also becomes invisible at school and with his two remaining relatives, an extra layer of sadness.

This book is a very imaginative look at how teenaged Conor experiences life with his mother's cancer. The monster who visits Conor is a yew tree, which can both poison and heal; the monster's tales are also unpredictable.

This was gut-wrenching, tear-jerking, intense, but also comforting. I'll be thinking about this for a long time. ( )
  Connie-D | Sep 15, 2016 |
Not really world changing but a solid coming of age with a parent dying of breast cancer tale. Highly recommend. ( )
  kale.dyer | Sep 2, 2016 |
The story uses myth and elements of magical realism to address emotional life, and not merely psychological life. As a result, the story has heft and is utterly realistic, if not always naturalistic. It veers toward the sappy, though I think this is a matter of perspective. When a person is not experiencing directly the emotional intensity of a situation, depiction and description can come across as overly sentimental. For the person immersed in the situation, its many layers, I suspect it's difficult to exaggerate or sentimentalise. I found that to be the case with Ness's story, and storytelling.

Kay's illustrations are dense, and also present as either on the periphery (detailed but uncentered) or as if we've noticed something just as it turns a corner, out of sight. Images take in a a huge expanse, say a house set far back in a landscape; or else they are in tight focus, floorboards and the edge of someone's foot. These heighten the tension, yes, but also reinforce the story's sense of sensory overload.

Another book that could not possibly meet my expectations, something having nothing whatever to do with the book itself. And yet, it did not fail them, either. That is perhaps the most realistic hope for these situations, so I'm well enough pleased.


I understand a film is in production. I wonder what the film treatment will do for the story, other than simply reach a different audience. Perhaps put the viewer in the role of the protagonist, which Ness chose not to do. Merely to reproduce in film the story told by Ness & Kay, would not seem to add anything of interest.

Uncanny, but starkly factual: I finished the book, at one sitting, came to the PC and checked the time. 12:07 (actually, 00:07). Yes.

Regrettably, mine is an American English edition: "soccer field", for example, though unaccountably a few other Britishisms remain ("chemist"). ( )
1 vote elenchus | Aug 10, 2016 |
Rating: 4.5 stars

Confession: I had never read a Patrick Ness book before this one.

Worse confession: I had never even heard of Patrick Ness before this year.

I know, I know. Don't throw things at me. I'm going to put it down to two things: 1) not growing up in the English-speaking world, and 2) living the past five years locked in university and first jobs.

Then, as I started getting into the book blogging community, I noticed just how popular Ness was. People revered him, and I actually found it a bit intimidating. I was worried about reading one of his books, for fear that I wouldn't like them as much as everyone else.

However, seeing Ness on the line-up for YALC convinced me that I needed to give him a shot. I turned to Twitter for advice on which book to start with, and I was told to read A Monster Calls. I looked at the cover and read the synopsis, but I was still sceptical. I couldn't really make out much from the synopsis, and what I did get from it didn't sound that appealing to me. I thought the book was going to be about the monster, and it sounded like it was targeting the Middle Grade crowd more than Young Adult.

But I trusted my bookish friends, and I can now tell you that I am officially a Patrick Ness convert.

Because this book isn't a scary or action-filled book about a monster. Not really. It's about Conor and his experience dealing with an ill mother and the effect this has had on the rest of his life. He has to cook for himself, has to clean the house. Everyone walks on eggshells around him at school because his mom has cancer.

And this book isn't just about a single monster. There's the monster who calls on him one night, but this isn't the first he's seen. Conor has been having the same nightmare since his mom got sick, one with an even scarier monster.

Going into the book, I was still a bit sceptical. It took me a few chapters to realise that the book was less about the monster and more about Conor. Ness somehow, sneakily, wound tendrils around my heart while I wasn't paying attention, slowly pulling me into the story and making me care so much about Conor and his mom...and even his grandmother! Ness' writing style was simple but powerful, building a Conor's world and filling it with detail enough for you to see it playing out like one of the monster's misty scenes. His characters were each unique, and each had an important role to play in the story, a point to make.

There was one character that pissed me off, and that was Conor's dad. What a pathetic man! There he was, living all comfy with his new wife and new kid across the pond, while his son was having to deal with a sick, single parent almost on his own. I mean, maybe I just have daddy issues (because my daddy issues are serious bizniz), but I can't be the only one who wanted to throttle this man, right? RIGHT?

The monster, on the other hand, was brilliant. He called on Conor to exchange three stories for Conor's 'truth'. His stories were a bit like Aesop's Fables, but they never ended the way I expected. He reminded me of the original faeries, the clever ones that aren't necessarily pretty, but more natural and magnificent. He chose his words carefully so that he never lied, but he always managed to make Conor (and me!) believe he was saying one thing when he was actually saying something totally different. I had to go back and reread some of his passages again to see the twists in his words. By the end, I wasn't sure if he was physically real, but he was real to Conor in the same way some book characters are real to me, helping me to make sense of a situation without being corporeally present.

Conor's truth was a bit of a punch to the gut because it was so, so true. True for everyone. I wasn't anticipating it, but when Conor finally admitted to it, I could relate. Maybe not with Conor's exact same situation, but similar ones, especially recently with my family.

By the end, I was in love with the book, and incredibly moved. There was one moment between Conor and his mom that tore my heart out, and I so wish I could share it, but I'd rather leave that for you to discover. If you've read the book and would like to guess which one I mean, please do leave a comment below or tweet me. I want to cry with someone over it.

I want everyone to read this book. I think it could help so many people and bring some serious comfort to them, in some weird, heartbreaking-but-soothing way. I want to give it to people to read, but I'm also a little scared that they'll be put off by me making them cry. Because you will cry. If you don't...then...I don't know... I almost feel like you have to cry to be able to truly appreciate and love this book. You will thank it for shredding your feelings.

Now...which Ness to read next?

( )
  dani_reviews | Jul 22, 2016 |
It's no surprise that this book has won as many awards as it has. A Monster Calls explores the conflicting emotions felt by an adolescent boy, Conor, as he's faced with the truth that his mother is dying. There's no clear right or wrong in the stories told by the Monster, the same as there's no right or wrong in how Conor feels. This is more a book for adolescents and older than for young children because of some content and especially as the illustrations of the Monster are so stark. ( )
  wandaly | Jun 30, 2016 |
Showing 1-5 of 225 (next | show all)
"... it’s powerful medicine: a story that lodges in your bones and stays there." “A Monster Calls” is a gift from a generous story­teller and a potent piece of art.
added by RBeffa | editNew York Times, Jessica Bruder (Oct 14, 2011)
The power of this beautiful and achingly sad story for readers over the age of 12 derives not only from Mr. Ness's capacity to write heart-stopping prose but also from Jim Kay's stunning black-ink illustrations. There are images in these pages so wild and ragged that they feel dragged by their roots from the deepest realms of myth.
It's also an extraordinarily beautiful book. Kay's menacing, energetic illustrations and the way they interact with the text, together with the lavish production values, make it a joy just to hold in your hand. If I have one quibble, it is with a line in the introduction where Ness says the point of a story is to "make trouble". It seems to me he has done the opposite here. He's produced something deeply comforting and glowing with – to use a Siobhan Dowd word – solace. The point of art and love is to try to shortchange that grim tax collector, death. Ness, Dowd, Kay and Walker have rifled death's pockets and pulled out a treasure. Death, it seems, is no disqualification.

» Add other authors (11 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Patrick Nessprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Dowd, SiobhanAuthorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Kay, JimIllustratorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Abarbanell, BettinaÜbersetzersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Iacobaci, GiuseppeTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Important places
Important events
Related movies
Awards and honors
You're only young once, they say, but doesn't it go on for a long time? More years than you can bear.
Hilary Mantel, An Experiment in Love
For Siobhan (Dowd)
First words
The monster showed up just after midnight. As they do.
I never got to meet Siobhan Dowd. (Author's Note)
You do not write your life with words, the monster said. You write it with actions. What you think is not important. It is only important what you do.
Last words
(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
Disambiguation notice
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Information from the Italian Common Knowledge. Edit to localize it to your language.
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Book description
Haiku summary
The monster tells tales
that don't behave and Conor
accepts a hard truth.

No descriptions found.

Thirteen-year-old Conor awakens one night to find a monster outside his bedroom window, but not the one from the recurring nightmare that began when his mother became ill--an ancient, wild creature that wants him to face truth and loss.

(summary from another edition)

» see all 3 descriptions

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