Book Review: A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness

monster calls

A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness, from an original idea by Siobhan Dowd, illustrated by Jim Kay

Released September 27, 2011.

Conor awoke at 12:07, just after midnight, from his nightmare, the one he had been having for years.  Then he realized that something was calling his name.  It was a monster, but not the monster from his dreams.  It was another monster, a monster who came walking to tell him three stories and then Conor had to tell him the fourth and final story.  And it had to be the truth.  Conor had not told anyone the truth for some time, not since his mother had first gotten sick.  Now she was worse again.  So Conor turned to the monster in the hopes that he could save her, that that was what had brought the monster walking.

Ness has created a powerful book from the final idea that Siobhan Dowd left before she died.  It is gut wrenching on so many levels.  You have a monster who is breathtakingly real, a boy who is disappearing into his mother’s illness, and a story of cancer and all of the feelings and emotions it creates and doesn’t allow to be expressed.  This is a book about the time before the loss, the anguish of the waiting, the hollowness not only inside the surviving family but around them as well, and the anger that is a part of grief too. 

Ness does not duck away from anything difficult here, rather he explores it in ways I haven’t seen before.  He takes the darkness and makes it real, makes it honest, creates truth from it and lays it all bare.  It is a book that is difficult to read but too compelling to put down.

Kay’s art runs throughout the book, framing the text.  It helps create a mood for the entire work, one of darkness and lightness too.   He plays with such darkness in his art here that it is sometimes a matter of black and blacker.  The art, done just in black and white, speaks to the power of the monster, the blaze of life, and the fragility of it as well.

I simply can’t say enough good things about this book.  It is a stunning work that truly does tribute to Siobhan Dowd’s idea.  Appropriate for ages 12-14.

Reviewed from ARC received from Candlewick Press.

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2 thoughts on “Book Review: A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness

  1. I just stumbled upon your blog and love it. Great descriptions of some of the books. I will definitely follow.
    Just finished my own publishd children’s book and blog.


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