A Monster Calls

Posted January 15, 2012 by Tara in Challenges /// 19 Comments

Beautifully creepy.

A Monster Calls
by Patrick Ness
Candlewick Press
Public Library e-book from Overdrive/
Library book from Junior Library Guild
[#5 in my 75 Book Challenge]

“There is not always a good guy. Nor is there always a bad one. Most people are somewhere in between.” 

Oh. My. Goodness. Everyone has been talking about this one, and now I see why. Featured on Newbery and Printz hopeful lists, A Monster Calls packs a big punch in a short novel. It made me cry.

This is a story about grief, loss, loneliness, pain, and anger. The main character, Conor, is living with with his very sick mother. At night he has a recurring nightmare and he won’t speak what it’s about. He’s haunted by a monster in his dream, but he also becomes haunted by a monster in reality — the yew tree in the yard comes to Conor’s window. The Monster then tells three tales, and expects a fourth. He expects the truth, and the truth is never as simple as good vs. evil or right vs. wrong…as much as we might want it to be, that’s not how the world works.

This is a story that does things you won’t expect.

As I was reading, I could never predict what was going to happen. I thought I knew where Ness was going, what the moral might be, but then there’d be a twist or a moment that surprised me. Finally, I just had to read. Keep reading. Read to find the message in the story.There’s really no good way to describe the story. I’m struggling to create words that can explain it, but I’m falling short. The best I can do is offer this YouTube trailer, created by the publisher, to give you the basic story, mood, and tone of the tale:

Final Grade:   A+   (OH. SNAP.)

The kicker: I think it’s better than Okay For Now, at least on a few levels. Equal on all levels. I’d recommend it to everyone. I’ve been gushing about Okay for Now winning the Newbery for months, but now I’m not so sure. We’ll know soon enough. All of the ALA Youth Media Awards will be announced on January 23, and I can’t wait to see what they decide.

Note: The original story was the creation of Siobhan Dowd, an author who died of breast cancer at 47. This fact added even more emotional impact to the story, in my opinion.


Tara is a PhD student studying education. Her dissertation will be on digital book communities as public pedagogy (ask her about it!), though she often takes a break from all of that to read books about oppressive governments and sassy teenagers. In a former life, she was a middle school teacher and middle school librarian. In her future life, she's a professor of YA lit. In her free time, she drinks a lot of coffee while planning her next grand adventure (there's always something).

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19 responses to “A Monster Calls

    • Miss Anderson

      It’s a relatively short novel — about 120 pages — so it should be a quick read. And totally, totally worth it! More books for your YA pile, Jessica!

  1. Having spent 22 months caring for my mother fighting cancer, and having a line of blowing trees standing out in the moonlight on a rise above my bedroom window there, I can totally relate to the nightmare/talking to the “other side” aspects of this book you review here! Excellent review that makes us go out madly grabbing for this book.

  2. Really love your blog! I’m a massive book worm so your blog has given me some good ideas for new reads! Just finished Hunger Games and The Help and both were amazing! Raider [ET]

  3. If you were to only get one format: e-book, audio, or book, which one would you choose? I feel like this would be better purchased as an actual book, but no idea why.

    • Miss Anderson

      I would buy the actual book. There are some great illustrations that would be best appreciated in that format. I think I even missed out when I just saw them in the ebook version!

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