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A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness

A Monster Calls (edition 2012)

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

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2,1482383,034 (4.39)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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English (230)  Spanish (2)  Catalan (2)  German (1)  French (1)  Dutch (1)  Italian (1)  All languages (238)
Showing 1-5 of 230 (next | show all)
Wow. Must read. Sad and moving. A little funny too. My mom and I read it together. Both enjoyed it and we are ready to see the movie when it comes out! ( )
  Erika.D | Oct 9, 2016 |
We all have our monsters to face, just as we all have our truths.

In the darkness and silence of a little past midnight, Conor rips himself from the clutches of a nightmare. One that has taken up seemingly endless residence in his sleeping brain without the benefit of its clutches lessening over time. As his senses awaken and the nightmare slides away from him, he becomes aware that there's an oddness to the silence surrounding him. Something he can't quite put his finger on but notices all the same. Soon, Conor's name seems to drift in on the unseasonably warm October air slipping in at his open window. Again and again he's called; he answers.

Patrick Ness' A Monster Calls isn't what I expected. I went into the read having never encounter Ness' work before and not realizing it was a YA novel. My interest was piqued when it was selected as a recent group read but I wasn't able to sit down with it until yesterday. From the title and cover, I assumed it would be something atmospheric and suspenseful; a perfect read for the first day that has finally felt a bit like fall and deserving the companionship of a hot cup of apple cider. I certainly didn't expect raw and reddened emotions and the whispers of past monsters to start tumbling about.

We quickly learn that Conor's mom is very sick and has been for a very long time. Her illness is never named but it grows, consumes, and devastates in its wake, leaving her tired and in pain. Conor is pushed ever nearer to the gaping precipice that is a parent's mortality by being ostracized at school. He is torn between being trapped in the awkward singled-out spotlight of those teachers and old friends who wish to say something but haven't the words and the invisibility that they've cloaked him in as this awkwardness grows. He's also become the target of a trio of bullies and each day brings a new round of bloodied nose and knees and their cavalierly bandied abuse concerning both Conor's person and his mother.

As Conor's monster says, "humans are complicated beasts."

Ness communicates the drudge and toll of Conor's days so well that I couldn't help being yanked into a few memories. I was seven when my dad died; he was sick for a little over a year before his death. Death was still a vagary for me at that point. I knew what it was, to an extent. It was more my dad's growing depression and fear that resonated with me. That was what I wanted so desperately to right, the only wound I could address with hugs and good behavior. Silly ripples that defied the ache of a certainty that made no sense.

I was lucky; the bullying didn't start for me until after my dad died. I didn't hear the first mixture of "your dad died because he couldn't bear to be around you" until I was already plenty numb. It wasn't anything I wasn't already saying to myself in a childish bid to rectify the guilt of living. I tended to hug my invisibility to me; when I stopped being me and started being 'the fat girl whose dad died,' there was comfort in the remove just as there was anger, futile and roiling anger. A continual fume and mute mutation.

Again, humans are complicated beasts...; even the most nonsensical of their actions reverberate. And bullying will always have safe harbor in the realm of the nonsensical for me.

As the monster also says, "Stories are important [...]. They can be more important than anything. If they carry the truth."

Conor's confrontation with his truth is so vital, so defining. Ness' entire premise in A Monster Calls is vital; this is a book I would have wished for as that little girl, it's a monster I would have gladly called. Please, come and get me.

I say all this to end with: this is a completely biased review. I don't think its emotional relevance to my personal experience eclipses the fact that Ness' narrative is strongly written. I think its emotional relevance would be significantly dampened if it wasn't written so well. Ness skillfully marries modern tone and lore, he captures his main character's voice and the emotionally charged atmosphere of each development in plot to a point that it's easy to become engrossed in/to relate to each character in turn. This review is biased because it ripped a tiny part of me open and I loved it for that. With future revisits I may have a more critical eye. I sincerely doubt it but we'll leave that end of things open for now. ( )
  lamotamant | Oct 6, 2016 |
Oh. My. Gosh. Words cannot describe how thoroughly I enjoyed the book. Even the second time around. It was creepily poetic and the illustrations were amazing. They really helped make the entire story. I started to read a chapter last night, and the next thing I know, BAM covers closed I finished the whole damn thing. It was that good!

The story follows Conor, a 13 year old boy living in England trying to deal with his mom's increasingly worse cancer symptoms and the nightmares it inspires. One night however, he realizes that he really is being visited by a monster. The monster (beautifully illustrated in the book, I might add) doesn't necessarily want to hurt Conor, but does he want to help him either?

Please, please give this book a chance. Definitely, one of the best books I've read this year!! ( )
  ecataldi | Oct 2, 2016 |
Conor has been having horrible nightmares for quite some time now. So when he hears a voice at exactly 12.07 am that calls from him from the graveyard not far from his house, he is not particularly impressed. Not even when the yew tree in said graveyard gets up and comes to him, insisting that he was the one who called it. The monster promises Conor three stories that will help him, then Conor will have to tell his own story – the story of the nightmare he dreams almost every night.

A Monster Calls is a beautiful book in very many ways. It had me actually crying a couple of times. It’s gripping, haunting and an intimate look at very big issues and the complexities that come with being human. I loved it.

I went into the book not knowing much about it. I bought it a while ago based on the illustrations and finally got around to reading it (with the upcoming adaptation it’s about damn time, too). I can only recommend that you try to go in as unprepared as I did. And I can only urge you to check it out. I think it will pay off for you, too. So, stop reading the review and go read the book.

More (with spoilers) on my blog: https://kalafudra.com/2016/09/10/a-monster-calls-patrick-ness-siobhan-dowd/ ( )
  kalafudra | Sep 27, 2016 |
The literary market is currently exploding with new sci-fi-, horror-, and dystopia fiction mixed with elements from Gothic fiction. And one could wonder; why the attraction? Could it be because literature brings millions of worlds with it, so it might work as a form of escapism?

Naturally contemporary fiction varies from earlier literary works. The language is modernized and elements from modern culture such as smartphones, computers and Facebook are now allowed to be included, but it is interesting to see how old myths still keep appearing in literature and movies. Earlier mythological creatures, such as vampires, werewolves and monsters were portrayed as horrible and evil, while they are now glamourized, beautiful and unique. It is a new element that a character in a book can be a monster and at the same time have magical features, for example: knowing the future, or being able to use their monster status as something good, instead of mainly being destructive.

An interesting contemporary literary piece is definitely Patrick Ness’ A Monster Calls (2011) that deals with a boy and his goodbye to his sick mother, and how he must adjust himself to the idea and reality of death. This novel mixes both good and evil within the boy and in the surrounding world, here representing cancer and the death of his beloved mother. Every night a monster shows itself outside of the boy’s window, and every morning the boy has the feeling that something has happened, although he does not remember anything. He only sees the broken furniture in the living room. There are many elements which could be inspired from classic literature, e.g. Frankenstein; elements as the darkness, the monster, the black-outs and the different emotions seen in the boy (the good representing Victor Frankenstein and the bad representing the monster).

“Stories are important, the monster said. They can be more important than anything. If they carry the truth”.

With a Freudian interpretation, it is almost too easy to see the id and the suppressed ego within the boy. But eventually, it is a typical novel in fairy tale style, where the hero or the heroine must overcome an obstacle in order to find the light in a world filled with darkness.

“”Stories don’t always have happy endings”. This stopped him. Because they didn’t, did they? That’s one thing the monster had definitely taught him. Stories were wild, wild animals and went off in directions you couldn’t expect”.

This novel truly haunted me in every way. It was beautiful, tragic and terrifying, but I LOVED IT! This is a really great modern piece of literature which makes it impossible for the reader to ever forget about it. Realizing and accepting are crucial bits of human life, but sometimes it seems impossible. I’m sure that the truth of this novel will tear you apart, as it did me. ( )
  evalucia | Sep 25, 2016 |
Showing 1-5 of 230 (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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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.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Haiku summary
The monster tells tales
that don't behave and Conor
accepts a hard truth.

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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)

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