A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness

Posted On 5 November 2012

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Just finished reading A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness.  This story is the touching tale of Conor, a 13 year old boy who’s mother has been diagnosed with cancer.  Conor has been suffering nightmares and finding it difficult to sleep.  He’s scared to go to bed at night fearing the return of the monster from his dreams.  However, he receives a visit from a different monster than that which he has been dreaming of.  He’s paid a visit by an earth elemental, a thing that is so old that time can no longer remember from when or whence it came.  His visitor comes in the guise of a Yew Tree and he seeks the truth from Conor.  He’s going to tell Conor three tales and in return he expects something much more scary. The darkness of the story is compounded by the illustrations created by Jim Kay that not only depict some of the scenes within the tale but sometimes also assist in the telling.

I don’t want to go into the plot of the book, this is only a short story and a very quick read and it would be quite easy to spoil it for others by running on about what takes place.  Basically it’s a difficult book to put down once you’ve picked up and can be read really in one sitting – it really is that compelling and once you’ve started you simply have to continue to the end.

I actually liked the monster in this tale – which sounds like a contradiction in terms really.  He’s dark and threatening, sometimes a little sinister.  He has a strange way of talking in riddles and he demands respect in no uncertain terms and yet in spite of it I enjoyed reading his sections and listening to his stories.  It had a sort of Christmas Carol type of charm to it the way in which he visits Conor to tell him these stories although the stories actual ending bears little resemblance to Dicken’s tale of redemption.  Gradually the monster reveals to Conor a series of half truths and shows him that things are not always as they first seem.

This is without question a very sad read, made more poignant by the untimely death of the original creator of the concept, Siobhan Dowd, who passed the characters and storyline to Patrick Ness to complete when she herself died of cancer.  I think there are very few people whose lives have not been touched in some way by cancer and yet rather than being something to fear I think this book is insightful.  It gives us a glimpse into the life of somebody who is coping and living with someone suffering from the disease.  It looks at the fear that we all have not only of this horrible disease but also of talking about it.  I would defy anybody to not be touched by the story and I would certainly recommend that you keep a box of tissues handy.  And, yet, in spite of the sorrow I came away from reading this book with something much more .  It really made me think.  It made me happy to be alive and made me realise that life is so short.  Sorry, don’t mean to start preaching here!

I would definitely recommend.  An eye opening tale.

A Monster Calls - images by Jim Kay

A Monster calls – images by Jim Kay



6 Responses to “A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness”

  1. "Auntie"

    An earth elemental… Wonderful….

    Just that there has to be so much sadness… I guess I don’t have guts to read it. -sigh-


    • lynnsbooks

      I hope I haven’t misrepresented the book with my review – I don’t think you need guts to read it, which was actually a bit of a surprise to me. It is a sad book without doubt and I think most people I know would probably end up a bit weepy – but, I think it’s emotional because you’re experiencing what the young boy is going through and I think it’s a great book for showing how this affects everyone. I can understand though that some people don’t feel up to this as a read. I enjoyed reading about the monster and his ancient stories and I thought the illustrations were absolutely stunning.
      Lynn 😀

  2. TBM

    I saw Patrick Ness speak last year and I’ve been meaning to read this book. Glad you enjoyed it–I may need a box of Kleenex when I read this one. Currently I’m growing my hair out to donate. My grandmother died from cancer and I miss her every day.

    • lynnsbooks

      Sorry for your loss. It takes a long time to get over I know. I think that’s what makes this such a difficult book for a lot of people – it strikes a very personal note.
      Lynn 😀

  3. Clockwork Hat

    I remember reading this book when it first came out. I agree full heartedly that it is one you feel compelled to finish in one sitting (with some tears along the way). A Monster Calls is a beautiful book in so many ways. It was really interesting to see your take on it. Thanks for the review 😀

    • lynnsbooks

      Hey, no worries. Looking forward to reading your reviews.
      Lynn 😀

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