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Book Review : A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness – Heartbreaking and “un-put-down-able”

21st July, 2016

Book Review : A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness

A monster visits a boy seven minutes after midnight, offering to tell him stories. But what does he want in return? And does Conor need this monster in addition to problems of his own?


I was not entirely sure whether this book would appeal to me when it landed on my doorstep all the way from Australia from Tamsien. And when she added that this book made her cry in the end, I began eyeing it with suspicious eyes. Cry? For a children’s story? It looked like middle-grade more than young adult and I wasn’t sure if I would be able to relate to the story as an adult. Boy! I was wrong.

“Stories are wild creatures, the monster said. When you let them loose, who knows what havoc they might wreak?”

I absolutely loved this book. It is amazing. The writing is simple and sucked me right into the life of Conor, a young boy whose mother is ill with cancer. Conor has other problems in his life as well – his friend circle is almost nil; he is the victim of bullying; his teachers treat him with reserve because they know he is strained because of his mother’s illness; his dad is in America, happy in a family of his own of which Conor is not part of; his grand mom doesn’t exactly get along well with him, and also there is a monster! A monster that emerges from (or is) a yew tree. Yes, a monster visits Conor a few minutes after midnight and offers to tell him stories. And in return he wants Conor to tell him the ‘truth’ else the consequences can be disastrous.

A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness

Not convinced with the plot? Well, it is a simple storyline but it deals with themes of grief and truth in such a lucid manner that I have not encountered before. The writing impresses you from the first page. The execution and structure of the story is exceptional. Also, the three stories that the monster tells Conor are wonderful. They have deeper meanings with subtle fantastical elements. This book had me devouring pages because I could not stop until I finished the read.

Book Review : A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness

The psychological aspect of the story on the reader is something worth talking about. I was not ready for the emotional havoc this book would have on my mind. A book that promises a sad ending from the start, yet enraptures the reader is evidently bound to be a good one.  As we grow up we come to terms with the fact that monsters exist in our world, though not in the forms we believed them to take when we were children. A Monster Calls addresses this issue and how painful the truth always is, even when we try so hard to conceal it. Conor is being thrust into this awareness at such a young age which makes this read more memorable.

Book Review : A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness

About the edition:

If you are planning to read the book, I highly recommend getting this edition with Jim Kay’s illustrations. The illustrations are perfect and add a certain depth to the narrative, even though they are drawn in mostly black, white and greys. I love the dismal look of some pages and the ferocious look of the monster in others. This perfect companionship of Kay’s illustrations and  Ness’s masterful storytelling will definitely leave you wanting for more.

Book Review : A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness

This is a book I would recommend to all age groups, including children and pre-teens. The ending of novel affected me in such a profound way that I was left thinking about griefs I have encountered in my personal life and then slipping towards the monsters each of us are familiar with in our own way.

Fast moving, thought provoking and an intense read based on the mind of a school boy – this book truly captured my heart.

Title : A Monster Calls
Author : Patrick Ness; based on an idea by Siobhan Dowd
Illustrated by : Jim Kay
Published : 2011
Language : English
Pages : 206
Rating : 5/5

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A Monster Calls

About the Author

Patrick Ness is an American writer who now resides in London. Ness won the annual Carnegie Medal from the British librarians both in 2011 and in 2012, for Monsters of Men and A Monster Calls, for  the best new book for children or young adults published in the U.K. He is one of seven writers to win two Medals  and the second to win consecutively.He is best known for his books for young adults, including the Chaos Walking trilogy and A Monster Calls.

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This Post Has 51 Comments
  1. It looks so powerful with its black/white illustration, and I cannot wait to read it – it should be on its way to me by now.

  2. Ahh this is one of those ‘forever on my TBR’ books. I loved Patrick’s Ness’s Chaos Walking series and have been meaning to read this one, especially because the movie is coming out soon. I nearly cried watching the trailer, so I’m sure I’ll have water works for the book as well. Great review!

  3. Patrick Ness is one of my favorite authors, and I absolutely love Jim Kay’s illustrations. You’ve seen his illustrated editions of the Harry Potter books, right? Sorcerer’s/Philosopher’s Stone came out last October, and then Chamber of Secrets is due out this year. The illustrations are so ridiculously gorgeous.

  4. Another 5/5 book! Keep the up the good streak!

    I actually haven’t read any of Patrick Ness’s books but I know how popular they are, so I will probably read one eventually. I do love the sound of this one. Haven’t read a good horror story in so long!
    So, was this the illustrated edition? It love the sampling of the illustrations you provided.
    Great review, as always. 🙂

    1. Thanks Naz. The illustrations really deepened the atmosphere of the book. It is less of a horror book and more of trying to understand your mind and the way it deals with grief. I adored the book. I hope you will be able to read it soon.

  5. I’m reviewing this book this week, too! I LOVED it! It was so powerful and heartbreaking- and in such a real sense (if that makes sense??). So glad you also loved it! I honestly don’t even think I could see the movie after reading it. I feel like the movie would do the perfect simplicity of the book a disservice.

    1. I will certainly be looking forward to your review. I am glad you really enjoyed the read. This is a book I don’t want to be seen as a movie. I love the way my mind imagined everything!

  6. I haven’t read this book but it sounds wonderful! I will definitely snatch up the illustrated version if I ever see it in a store, and devour the pages in hopes of having as great an experience with it as you did. 😀

  7. I should go back and check my review but….. Reading your review brought the story back to me. I remember finding this book pretty powerful, though not quite unputdownable. I totally agree with you about the illustrations. They gave me the creeps.

    1. I am glad you enjoyed the read nevertheless. I read this after a few not-so-great books and this was like a breath of fresh air for me. I loved the illustrations too. It perfectly sums up the feel of the book

  8. I started A Monster Calls when I was home alone and I finished it in one sitting. Once my mother came back home she found me crying. I tend to cry while reading either from sadness or happiness but this story really hit me hard. I’m glad you enjoyed it and I agree 100%; the illustrations add so much.

    1. I totally understand. This book was a page turner for me. And I was emotionally in sync with the book. I had tears in my eyes when the book got over. Such a heart breaking read.

  9. Awesome review and I’m so glad you liked the book. I have the edition with illustrations and I’m so happy because they are stunning. I didn’t know what to expect from the story but it blew me away and it’s one of my favourites. 🙂 I also read The Rest of Us Just Live Here by Patrick Ness and it was wonderful as well. 🙂

  10. Hi Resh Susan,
    I am a licensed English teacher who loves reading. Thank you for promoting literacy at your site.
    I met you on Briana’s site. You said you appreciated blogging tips, so I came over. I also blog about blogging tips and greatly appreciated the validation Briana gave to all bloggers like Briana and me who offer blogging tips in order to help people with their blogs. Maybe you can check out my blogging tips site since you said you appreciate the tips. Here is the link to my About page, so you can read more about me.

  11. Fabulous review! I totally agree with you, too. I wasn’t sure it would appeal to me, but because it’s Patrick Ness, I gave it a shot- and it is incredible. My only regret is that I read it in ebook format- I now own the physical too, but I wish I’d experienced the gorgeous illustrations while reading it. Speaking of, your pictures are lovely I love the flower, and the pop of color!!

    1. Thank you very much. That is so kind of you. If you are ever planning to buy a copy of the book I highly recommend this edition. The illustrations give real depth to the story line. I am glad you enjoyed the book nevertheless.

  12. This is such a wonderful and powerful story and a major feat for Patrick Ness, given it was the brainchild of Siobhan Dowd, who passed away before she could write the story herself. Having read what he created with her idea, with her blessing, it is all the more an incredible story and achievement, a tribute to a gifted writer whom he and many others admired, who was taken from us too soon.

    I read The Crane Wife after this, a novel he wrote for adults, which is good, but A Monster Calls really is inspired and something totally unique. I’m so glad you read it despite your initial thoughts. I’m sure your review will inspire others to do so too.

    1. Yes, I am really pleased with the novel. Loved the fast pace and the emotions it evoked. This is my first Patrick Ness so I am eager to read The Chaos Walking trilogy as well. I will keep The Crane Wife in mind. I really think Ness is a writer with a lot of potential and would love to explore more of his works.

  13. I have to confess that I still haven’t read any Patrick Ness but I do have this one sitting on my shelves. After all the praise it’s received across the blogosphere, I’m really tempted to pick it up. And, like your friend, a lot of people have recommended it being a great, emotional read. Anyway, I’m so relieved to hear you enjoyed this one. Great review, Resh Susan!

  14. I have no idea why I haven’t read this yet. I mean, I adore everything else Patrick Ness has written, but I haven’t read this AND IT’S SO CONFUSING TO ME. And that edition is absolutely gorgeous.

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