Review- A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness

Goodreads: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.

Inspired by an idea by the late Siobhan Dowd, Ness has succeeded in creating a heartbreakingly dark story about the difficulty of facing your fears and letting go.  Monsters both real and imagined take centre stage as Conor attempts to deal with the many difficulties in his life, including: his mother’s illness, his father’s absence, and being bullied at school. We see Conor go through many emotional states, including confusion, loneliness, sadness and denial. 

Conor only begins to see the importance of truth and acceptance after a monster (in the form of a Yew tree) appears and over time tells him three stories. These stories teach Conor essential truths, including  “There is not always a good guy. Nor is there always a bad one. Most people are somewhere in between.”  In the end, the monster exists to push Conor to admit the truth to himself.   The monster itself can be interpreted in different ways.  I’ve read other reviews, and I too believe that Conor’s grief had consumed him (literally) like a monster.

This monster was illustrated in such a unique way throughout the book. Check out this Youtube trailer for a sample of the amazing artwork. My favourite illustrations were of the monster’s first appearance (pg 6) and of the monster and Conor standing in field (pg 100).

Although classified as a YA title, A Monster Calls can definitely appeal to adults too. Since all humans experience grief we are able to empathize with Conor’s experience. In the end, I recognize that not all stories can have happy endings but I’m glad that Conor was finally able to find acceptance in his truth.

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