Thursday, February 2, 2012

Review: A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness; Inspired by Siobhan Dowd

Publisher: Candlewick Press
Publication Date: September 27th, 2011

This is an extraordinarily moving novel about coming to terms with loss. The monster showed up just 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 nightmare 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, though, is something different. Something ancient, something wild. And it wants the most dangerous thing of all from Conor. 
It wants the truth.

Patrick Ness spins a tale from the final story idea of Siobhan Dowd, whose premature death from cancer prevented her from writing it herself. Darkly mischievous and painfully funny, A Monster Calls is an extraordinarily moving novel about coming to terms with loss from two of our finest writers for young adults.
(Courtesy of Goodreads)

I have to admit that  when I heard Patrick Ness had written a MG novel, I was dubious.  I've read his Chaos Walking series, and while he is a brilliant writer, he's not one that I would have ever considered recommending to a MG reader.  Then I read a synopsis of A Monster Calls and saw the cover, and thought, "This doesn't really seem very MG.  It seems too harsh...".  Then I read it.  And it took me a REALLY long time to read it.

I started this book in late November, and had to put it down for quite awhile.  It just wasn't a great time for me to be reading such a sad and very, very real book.  It sat on my nightstand until yesterday, when I decided it was time to finish it.  Well, finish it, I did.  I read almost the entire book in one sitting, and while it was extremely sad, it was satisfying too.  It was brilliantly written, with so much care, wisdom, and TRUTH.  It IS okay to be angry at the injustice of seeing bad things happen to good people, and it is okay to want the suffering to end.  As heart-wrenching as this book is, it is also beautiful, but it's not the writing and story alone that makes it so.  This book would not be what it is without illustrator Jim Kay's amazing artwork!  Entirely in black and white, and done with ink, he manages to create so many textures through the use of many unique tools.  The perspective he adds to this story with his artwork adds so much, and your average illustration would never have done the job.  He captures the story and emotion behind it in ways that are astounding and difficult to describe.  My favorite was, by far, the one where the monster is shown sitting on the roof of Conor's Grandma's office.  The feeling in that illustration brought tears to my eyes, and it wasn't the only one.  This book is a package deal like few I have ever read, and it is truly extraordinary.

Get your box of tissues, block an afternoon off to read, and dig in.  You will gain so much as a person by the experience.  This book is more than a story, more than mind-blowing illustrations, more than a book... This book is a work of art and a study in all that is right, all that is wrong, and everything that is unfair in our reality.  It is love, anger, triumph, defeat, rage, and understanding, all rolled into one.  A must-read for everyone.

My Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★+++

Grade Level Recommendation:  This is considered a MG book, but I wouldn't classify it as so.  I wouldn't recommend this for kids younger than about 5th grade, unless they are going through the horrible experience of watching a loved one die of cancer.  I feel like the average younger MG student just wouldn't GET what this book has to offer.  That said, after about 5th grade, I think this is a book that anyone, and everyone should read; tween, teens, adults.  Anyone can gain wisdom and a small piece of humanity from reading this.


  1. I agree with you on your grade level recommendations for the book. It was one of the best books I read last year ("best" being a weird term to use there) because it reaches deep down inside of you pulls out things you didn't know were there. But I don't think it would have that effect on children too young to understand their own emotions at this level. A beautiful book and a great review! I'm glad you "liked" it.

  2. I have to give this back to my library, but I'm thinking I should take the time to read this first somehow. Gawd, I'm in the mood to cry too.

  3. I just posted my review of this today as well!

    I loved the truth of this book. It's one of those things that people don't talk about but really needs to be addressed. Awesome review!

    Alison at The Cheap Reader

  4. I really, really, really need to read this. Fab review! :)

  5. I read this awhile back and I read it in a couple of days because I couldn't take it all in at once. The ending where things are cleared for us is incredibly sad. I was a mess, such a tragic yet amazing book.


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