Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Book Review: A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness

Posted as part of Tween Tuesday, hosted by GreenBeanTeenQueen.
A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness (inspired by an idea from Siobhan Dowd)
Publisher: Candlewick
Publication date: September 2011
Pages: 224
Source: e-book from NetGalley
For: Review (and Cybils)

When Conor wakes up one night with a monster outside his window, he isn't afraid.  He expected a monster, ever since his mom started her cancer treatments.  But this monster is different, and he wants something painful from Conor.  Will Conor be able to face this monster that pushes his understanding of himself and his mother beyond what he is comfortable with?

Things I Liked:
This is a thoughtful and tough little book.  I liked the combination of realistic situations and real tragedy as well as a sort of fantasy element.  I think this book is one that I'd definitely label magical realism.  I was interested in the monster - what it was, what it represented, why it was there, what it was doing, etc.  I think the idea of it and the things we slowly understand about it make the book compelling.  But really, it is the ideas and the hard look at what life is like when you have a terminally ill family member that make this unforgettable.  I liked how it wasn't glossed over, how Conor made mistakes and the struggles he has fitting his home life and his school life together.  The issues he faces and the personal demons are so realistic they will make you cry.  A lot.  Beautiful story, beautifully told.  I first read the book on my kindle (thank you NetGalley), but hated the format for the illustrations (which was more like a non-format).  I did finally check it out from the library and got to appreciate fully the beauty of those illustrations.

Things I Didn't Like:
I have to admit, I found some of the details of the monster's story a bit distracting from Conor's story.  There were some really complex and abstract concepts thrown around in relation to Conor and I am quite sure I didn't fully grasp them.  I kind of wanted something I could nail down and understand.  And I really questioned the kid-appeal of this one for the Cybils.  I just couldn't see a general interest in such a dark and sometimes quite depressing book.  Something that I can't quite put my finger on is holding me back from giving this one five stars.  But I absolutely recommend it.

This one is pretty unique, maybe a little like Umbrella Summer by Lisa Graff

s-factor: ! 

one or two

mrg-factor: none 

v-factor: -> 
not so much violent as raw and a bit scary in places

Overall rating: **** 

What did you love about this book?

If you buy through my Amazon linkage, I will get a very small percentage


  1. One of my favorites from 2011! I'm not sure a child would reread this one over and over, but I know every library should stock it. Hard to market...? Still, I loved it!


    1. Definitely it should be in every public library! And I can see how it would be a HUGE help to some kids.

  2. Well, this is one I'm going to have to check out no matter what I hear about it.

    1. It is absolutely worth everyone giving it a try.

  3. I think this one is more for grown ups than for children. It is a sad and effective book, but not really a scary monster one that the students want.

    1. Ooh I hadn't thought about kids picking it up based on the title expecting a scary book! I agree it's more for us as grown ups to cry over.


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