A Monster Calls

Thursday, January 19, 2012


A Monster Calls
by Patrick Ness
★★★★★

A 13-year-old boy, Conor, lives alone with his mother and is trying to come to terms with her battle with cancer. One night a monster comes to his window. What follows is an eye-opening experience, for both the boy and the reader as the monster tells three tales and tries to explain their meanings.

Everyone was right about this one, it’s just beautiful. It feels so intimate and honest. For me the story of losing your mom to cancer as a tender teen is one that still opens a deep wound in my heart. It is a sensitive spot for me and invokes a visceral pain that never quite heals over. As I read this I was 13 all over again, seeing my mom's bald head for the first time, freshly bare from another round of chemo.


The book reminded me quite a bit of “The Book of Lost Things.” It’s a grown-up fairy tale in some ways. I loved the character of the Monster. He’s sort of a condescending, grumpy old man, saying things like, “You thought I walked across time to teach you about niceness?” Yet at the same time he manages to show Conor an understanding that he deeply needs.

I can't even describe how beautiful the illustrations are. They are just captivating; filled with dark shadows and twisting vines, a combination of both beauty and fear. They reminded me a little bit of the illustrated section in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1.

If you haven’t read this one yet, I hope you’ll pick it up soon. It’s a powerful reminder that life is often not fair and the world holds much worse things than monsters. It looks at those dark truths and yet somehow provides some comfort in the midst of the sorrow.

"Villages grew into towns, towns into cities. And people began to live on the earth rather than within it."

“Stories were wild, wild animals and went off in directions you couldn't expect.”

All images from the book

13 comments:

Sandy Nawrot said...

It was a gorgeous, heart-breaking book wasn't it? And I can't even really imagine reading it if I had actually lost a parent to cancer. While I felt a bit manipulated with Ness's Chaos Walking trilogy, this one didn't feel that way. It just felt real. Great review. I know it was not easy to write.

Nymeth said...

So glad you loved it too! It really is a beautiful book.

Kristi said...

I agree that it was incredibly beautiful. I'm not a crier. I can think of maybe two other books in my life that have made me cry, but this book really got to me. By the end, I just couldn't hold them back any longer. I don't usually like books with illustrations, but this book wouldn't have had the same impact without them. I'm glad you loved it. I checked this one out from the library, but I really want to get a copy for myself.

Melissa (Avid Reader) said...

Sandy - I completely agree. The issues I had with Chaos weren't present here at all.

Nymeth - I couldn't resist after you raved about it.

Kristi - A bookstore that I grew up going to and hanging out in was going out of business in December and I bought this there as a goodbye present to myself. Yes, I will use any excuse to buy a book.

Trish said...

I'm SO torn on this one. Everyone raves and it sounds like such a beautiful book but even just reading your post gave me a knot in my stomach. Just don't know if I can handle the subject matter...

Totally forgot about the HP illustrations! For a minute I was really confused why I hadn't heard of an illustrated copy. ;)

Melissa (Avid Reader) said...

Trish - Ha yes, I thought the little animated section in the movie was so well done. The subject material in this one is tough, but it didn't leave me feeling depressed. I do think you have to be in the right mood for it though.

Jenners said...

I imagine this would call up deep and painful emotions for you. I must read this … I haven't seen any review that says anything less than "It is amazing."

Alex (The Sleepless Reader) said...

I think you're very brave to pick up A Monster Calls after what you've been through. My boyfriend still wouldn't voluntarily pick up a movie/book about cancer.

Melissa (Avid Reader) said...

Jenners - They were all right about it being amazing!

Alex - Sometimes it's hard, but I it's something I can't ignore. I think it's actually comforting to realize that grief is universal. It's such an isolating thing, it's good to be reminded that others lose people and survive.

Heather @ Book Addiction said...

Everyone is raving about this one, I really have to read it. Thanks for yet another review that pushes me to picking up the book!

Kailana said...

Happy to see you enjoyed it! It was a great book!

Jeanne said...

After this fall and then the John Green book, I think I have to wait for a little while before I read this one.

Melissa (Avid Reader) said...

Heather - I hope you like it!

Kailana - It was!

Jeanne - I wasn't expecting to read this and Fault back-to-back, it was a lot.