Thursday, November 9, 2017

Book Review: A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness

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

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.


A few usages of minor cuss words: a couple of h-words, a couple a-words, maybe one d-word.


Conor's mother has cancer or some similar illness, and takes medication and powerful drugs for it. This includes chemo (which makes her throw up and barely able to get out of bed) and a powerful experimental drug, but it's all in that medical context and NEVER glamorized. 


None.  (Conor is friends with a girl he's known since preschool, and used to be teased about being in love with her, but he isn't.) His parents are also divorced and his dad is remarried, but that is portrayed as destroying Conor's heart and thus negatively. 

Book Review:

This book.

Every time I read it, I'm overcome by the sheer amount of symbolism. The metaphors in everything. The brokenness of the characters; the mess Conor, our protagonist, gets himself into.

This is an example of a book that allows its story to carry its own weight without the unnecessary smut that Rebellious Writing is opposed to. The story is deep. While on the surface it may seem simplistic (boy's mother is terminally ill; boy doesn't want her to die) it's so much more.

The setting is all over the place: While it all technically takes place in Conor's world, his house and his grandmother's prim and proper house and his school, it doesn't stay there. The monster's stories enact new kingdoms and realms around Conor while he's still in his yard; a dreamscape is visited at one point (although what happens there is less than dreamlike); things flicker in and out of a hospital in a way that blurs into the confusion of real life when a loved one is in a bad way.

Patrick Ness is a good writer. While I haven't loved the other books of his that I've read, I bought this one without thinking twice. It's that good. While the cover initially makes it look like a horror novel, believe me, it isn't. It's a gorgeous, emotional, heart-shredding story of a boy and his mother, a boy whose dreams are threatening to destroy him, who's bottled up his grief up and refused to let it out. It resonates with me.

"Stories have power, Conor O'Malley." 

In all honesty, can I really recommend this book? Well, in terms of cleanliness, I certainly can. But I do so with a warning: It will rip your heart out. It will make you think twice about the stories you believe. And it will do so with lovely, lyrical, gorgeous writing that takes you in and doesn't allow you to realize that it's destroyed you until it has.

Read at your own risk. But read knowing that you don't have to cringe away from the page. This book, with the exception of those three or four milder curse words, is clean.

And I, for one, am incredibly glad it is. 


  1. A Monster Calls made me cry so much at the end, and I rarely cry over books. It's an excellent piece of literature and I'm trying to prepare myself to watch the movie.

    1. Agreed in full. And the movie looks like it's going to be epic when I watch it--I mean, Liam Neeson and Felicity Jones? Two of my favorite actors!

  2. I NEED to read this now!

    Great review, Faith. :)

  3. Wow, Faith! Fantastic review! This sounds so good!!

  4. Sounds different than anything I've heard of. One thing I will say is I don't agree with divorce in some aspects, but there are many factors people have to consider. And I think if a divorce is shown where the two parents can still get along, that's a good thing, too. Sometimes, its better to have the parents separate for the good of the child.

    Like I said, I don't agree with it completely, but I know of situations that would make me not feel as opposed to it.

    All that being said, I'm glad there are some cleaner books out there. (Hopefully you don't feel like I was ranting. I promise I wasn't. It was just something I felt compelled to say. :D )


    1. This divorce is depicted that way--the mom and dad are no longer married and haven't been for years, but they can still talk and the dad feels horrible about how sick the mom is.

  5. Great review, Faith! :) Definitely putting it on my TBR list.

    1. Awesome! I hope you enjoy it is as much as I did!

  6. This sounds like a book I would love! :D

  7. Another book to add to my TBR!! Great review, Faith! :D

  8. Oh my gosh yes! I love Patrick Ness and I've renewed this book twice from the library already- I'm planning to read it within the next few weeks. Thank you for reviewing it!

  9. Guess what? I'm reading the book rn because of your wonderful review. Thank you so much for sharing great reads :)