Book Review: A Monster Calls, by Patrick Ness

A Monster Calls by Patrick NessA Monster Calls, by Patrick Ness, is the kind of book that sneaks up on you. At a brief 215 pages, I settled in for a quick read, not knowing that just a few pages in I would be totally enchanted. And by the end of the book, I would be a bawling, blithering mess.

A brief synopsis:

At seven minutes past midnight, thirteen-year-old Conor wakes to find a monster outside his bedroom window. But it isn’t the monster Conor’s been expecting– he’s been expecting the one from his nightmare, the nightmare he’s had nearly every night since his mother started her treatments. The monster in his backyard is different. It’s ancient. And wild. And it wants something from Conor. Something terrible and dangerous. It wants the truth. From the final idea of award-winning author Siobhan Dowd– whose premature death from cancer prevented her from writing it herself– Patrick Ness has spun a haunting and darkly funny novel of mischief, loss, and monsters both real and imagined.

An unflinching, darkly funny, and deeply moving story of a boy, his seriously ill mother, and an unexpected monstrous visitor.

This book reminds me of The Little Prince, in that it’s suitable for young people, but contains an intangible charm and depth of meaning that are likely to be lost on younger readers.

It’s a dark book, dealing with anger and loss and feelings of powerlessness and abandonment. But it’s also light at unexpected moments. Nothing is ever quite what it seems in A Monster Calls – sometimes meanings get muddled – which I understand might leave some readers feeling confused and/or frustrated (those few who have given it poor reviews online). But I think approaching this book as a kind of fable from the start might alleviate any need to “make sense” of it all.

Because what you get at the end is worth so much more than wishing for a linear, sensible plot. The absolute heart and emotion in the final scenes – and the truth, as it is written – is so powerful, it did in fact make me cry until my shirt collar was wet. The message in A Monster Calls was what I needed to hear, and I didn’t even know it.


*Disclosure: Amazon affiliate link included in this post.