Review // A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness

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


If you read my previous post, you’ll know that I read A Monster Calls during BookTube-A-Thon when I finally settled on which book to read in a single day. It’s not long, and the text doesn’t extend to the edges of the page, which I think is why it’s such a short, quick read. In my previous post, I also mentioned that I read this book in about four hours, which is a first for me. I think.

Anyway, the story follows Conor, who’s been looking after himself since his mother became sick with cancer, and he’s essentially been watching her get worse over time despite his mother saying otherwise. She was telling him what he wanted to hear, what he wanted to believe, but deep down, he knew how this was going to end, and it wouldn’t be happy.

He’s visited almost every night by a monster disguised as a yew tree, and the monster tells him that he’ll share with Conor three tales, and Conor will provide the fourth — his story. His true story. The interaction between these two as the story progressed was entertaining, and you could really get a feel for Conor’s age showing in everything he said and did, but also there was a kind of friendship that developed between them. The monster came to really care for Conor, and was probably the only living thing that really saw him outside of school.

Conor’s grandmother comes to stay with them to help take care of his mother, her daughter, and Conor and his grandmother don’t get along all that well. She wants to prepare Conor for the worst, but his mother would rather pretend she’s getting better for his sake. This story is about grief and all of its different stages, and how grief affects everyone differently, and no two individuals follow the same path to acceptance.

Conor’s dad, who lives in the United States with his new wife and baby, comes to visit at the request of his ex-wife, to help watch out for Conor as a parent should, and while Conor is excited to see his dad again after so long, their relationship isn’t as close as he would like, because from my understanding, Conor feels abandoned by his dad for leaving not just their family, but the entire country to essentially start a “new” life away from him.

From the very beginning you get the idea that this story will not be a happy one, and it’s not. For all the profound quotes throughout this book from the monster, this book didn’t blow me away like it has most everyone else who’s read it, and so, for that reason, I ended up giving it 4 stars out of 5. It was great, but it wasn’t that great. I still enjoyed the book, and I’m interested in watching the movie, and Patrick Ness has earned his way onto my auto-buy author list, but it wasn’t that much of a captivating read.

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