Book Review: A Monster Calls

A Monster Calls
Published By: Walker Books
Publication Date: September 2011
Page Count: 216
Source: Purchased by Reviewer
Young Adult - Fantasy

Patrick Ness has got to be the most versatile author writing for young adults today, at least of his generation. Between the sci-fi dystopian Chaos Walking series and the contemporary paranormal The Rest of Us Just Live Here, I thought he was pretty amazing. But now having read A Monster Calls, the movie version of which will be out just before Christmas, I am in absolute awe of Patrick Ness. 

 In A Monster Calls, Ness gives us the story of Conor whose recurrent nightmares are disrupting his life. As Conor become desperate watching his mother continue to succumb to a terminal illness, the yew tree in the churchyard behind Conor’s home appears outside his window. The monstrous tree offers Conor three stories of times when it walked the world righting wrongs, in exchange for Conor telling it the true story of Conor’s own nightmare. 

I loved every single thing about this book: setting, characters, dialogue, imagery. Patrick Ness has such a way with setting and how it affects the tone of the story. Being in a small, English town, the story has access to the moody, magical feel of the countryside. And though Ness could have created any kind of monster really, he chose an ancient yew tree with all the heavy symbolism it implies – longevity, healing, death, and a solitary existence. I’ve mentioned in other reviews how well he conveys the teenage voice, and A Monster Calls is no exception; Conor is fraught, wrung out, strung out and utterly believable. Seriously, this book is perfect. 

One of the things that initially intrigued me about A Monster Calls, other than its “soon-to-be-a-major-motion-picture” status, is that the story was originally conceived by author Siobhan Dowd who lost her battle with cancer before she could write the book. I have to think that she smiled on Ness’s take on her idea. Every word of the book satisfies, and Ness’s overall theme about truth, pain, and love will touch any soul brave enough to face it. Bring your Kleenex to this one.

The monster showed up after midnight. As they do.

But it isn’t the monster Conor’s been expecting. He’s been expecting the one from his nightmare, the one he’s had nearly every night since his mother started her treatments, the one with the darkness and the wind and the screaming…

This monster is something different, though. Something ancient, something wild. And it wants the most dangerous thing of all from Conor.

It wants the truth.


  1. I just finished this and I loved it. Can't wait to see the movie!
    Rebecca @ The Portsmouth Review
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