A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness

monster calls

The monster showed up 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 one 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 is something different, though. Something ancient, something wild. And it wants the most dangerous thing of all from Conor.

It wants the truth.

Despite my undeniable love for A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness, this is a book that is difficult to review. First, for its beautifully crafted story that is best read and experienced rather than explained, and second, because no matter my writing capabilities, I believe I could not do this book justice.

Perhaps one of the most profound and beautiful stories I have read in 2015, A Monster Calls is a timeless story that is powerful for all its simplicity. Allegorical and metaphorical by nature, A Monster Calls can be interpreted in many different ways and tells more than one story. It tells of the fallibility of appearances, the stories we tell ourselves, the complexities of human beings, the inadequacy of ‘good/bad’ dichotomies, and the struggles of youth and family. More so, despite its elements of magical realism, A Monster Calls also tells of something incredibly real and inherent to the human experience: of grief and loss. 

Grief is something that we will all experience in our lives. Though it is so normalized in our way of life, grief – both as an emotion and life-changing experience – is something that is deeply and viscerally felt. It changes us; it rearranges our organs – our eyes, our hearts, our guts, our skin. After reading A Monster Calls, it struck me that the most heart-wrenching and painful facet of grief is not the palpable, wrenching sorrow; it is the throes of denial, shame, loneliness, and guilt. To depict such an affecting and relentless emotion is no small feat, but at the hands of Ness, it is flawlessly done. Ness masterfully and successfully portrays the many faces of grief with an honesty that is both comforting and almost painful to witness. For something so raw, it was delivered with incredible gentleness and sensitivity. (Oh, the ending will still make you sob like a baby, like it did me.)

Though the book possesses a strong thematic focus, the characters are never disembodied mouthpieces to its themes and ideas. All characters possessed an undeniable humanness, and there was not a character I could not empathize with. I connected with all characters on a deep, emotional level, especially with Conor, the protagonist of A Monster Calls. Entering Conor’s mind and seeing the world through his eyes and heart was a seamless, effortless process. In ways, was Conor, and Conor was, and will be, me.

And then, the unlikely friend to you, to me, to Conor: the monster. Similarly to the contents and overall message of the book, our own unique life experiences and perspectives will shape how we perceive the Monster and what it embodies. For me, the Monster was a force – the force that compels us to realize, to accept, and to forgive – or a single manifestation of all the powerful forces in the world. The Monster may be the most mysterious character of the book, but it was also incredibly familiar. Why, because the Monster truly understands — and I think that is the thing we desire and fear the most.

A Monster Calls is an absolutely necessary piece of literature, is wonderfully written, and accessible to readers of all ages. There are many things to appreciate in A Monster Calls; no matter your age, you will find a piece of yourself in this book. On a more personal note, I wish I had this book when my grandfather passed. Though it has been sixteen years and the scars may tingle, this book has given me solace: that of being understood. And that’s the powerful, beautiful thing: child, teenager, adult, parent, A Monster Calls is the sort of book that will always understand us. Whatever we endure in life, whatever pain and hardship, A Monster Calls will be what comes walking.

Thank you Ness and Dowd for this book; thank you.

Rating: 4.5/5

Book Information
Book Name: A Monster Calls
Author: Patrick Ness
Publisher: Walker Books
Format: eBook

A Monster Calls in:
Goodreads | Amazon | Book Depository | My review on Goodreads

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36 thoughts on “A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness

  1. So I read like five pages on Halloween 2015 but for some reason I haven’t picked it back up yet. 😅 I am a big mood reader though, so that could be why… 😝 As always, beautiful review, Chooi! So happy that it’s as moving as everyone claims it to be! ☺️

    • Hahaha, it does take a little bit to get into it, but it’ll be worth it Summer! I heard the illustrated version is beautiful (I read it on my eReader).

      Thank you!! I hope you read it soon – I really think you will love it!

  2. This was beautiful, just, HOW can you make words and everything so beautiful. I feel like this book is going to drive me to tears from beginning to end, and I do love raw emotions. BEcause even if it’s sometimes hard to read, to bear, it just shows how powerful the written word can be. I have this book on my TBR, but I think I’ll move it up high, high, very high, because I want to read it so badly now ! :)

    • Oh thank you Marie!! c:

      I have this feeling that you’ll love this book, Marie. (Like, a REALLY strong feeling!) This book just really tackles those deep, deep feelings and it does it so subtly and eloquently. It’s absolutely fantastic.

      Yes move it higher! And then read it so we can discuss it or I can read a fabulous review written by you (even if you don’t like it)! <3

  3. “I was Conor, and Conor was, and will be, me.” THIS

    I love this book so much! One of my best 2015 reads as well. It’s the first of Patrick Ness I’ve read and I (kinda) regretted reading it first. Some blogger said it’s the trendsetter. Well, hopefully, his other books wouldn’t fall short to this. :D

    • Me too!! I didn’t know you had read it; we should discuss!! Hmmm, Ness’s trilogy – the Chaos Walking trilogy – is really, really good. I think you would like it! I don’t think the trilogy falls short compared to A Monster Calls — tbh I think you are always in good hands when it comes to Ness. C:

  4. I definitely need to read this! For some reason I haven’t picked any of Patrick Ness’s books yet but I think that’s going to change this year. Loved your review!

    • Oh Poulami, when you start reading Ness, you won’t want to stop! I was blown away by his Chaos Walking trilogy (HIGHLY RECOMMEND!!) and A Monster Calls blew my mind in a different, quieter way. Both are fantastic and I’m sure you’ll love them! If you read them, let me know what you think, okay? :D

      And thank you!

  5. Amazing review! I agree when I was writing my review for it I couldn’t put into words how beautiful the book was.

  6. This is the best book I read last year and the first book by Ness I had read. I’ve since read 6 more of his books and none of them have quite lived up to A Monster Calls. He set an impossibly high bar for himself! :-)

    • Hi Claire! A Monster Calls was definitely a favourite for me too. Ooh, I’ve only read his Chaos Walking trilogy which I LOVED, but have yet to read More Than This and The Rest of US Just Live Here – two books I’d love to read if the opportunity presents itself!

      Haha, he has! Apparently he is visiting New Zealand later in the year, and I’d LOVE to meet him! (Though I think I’d be a little star struck.)

  7. Okay so I’ve yet to read a Patrick Ness novel and I’ve been torn about which one I should start with but this review has me sold. I feel like when I’m in the right mood I’ll pick it up and when I do it will no doubt leave a lasting impression on me. :D

    • Ah yay! Please read it; I’m super passionate about A Monster Calls! XD His Chaos Walking trilogy is fantastic and one of my favourite book series. So if you’re up for something dystopian, that’s amazing too!

      I hope you enjoy it when you read it! <3

    • It is an amazing book! I cannot recommend it enough. Ness’s books are fantastic in general; if you’re up for something dystopian/war, his Chaos Walking trilogy is fantastic and definitely worth reading – even if it’s long!

      Ohhh, if you read it, let me know what you think? I’d love to discuss this book with someone!

  8. I’m really glad you liked A Monster Calls! It’s definitely my favourite Patrick Ness book so far! (Have no idea when I will pick up the Chaos Walking series again :/) Anyway agree with everything you said – its a very moving book and as written so beautifully. I adored the illustrations! It depicted the story perfectly. Well written review as always! :)

  9. I felt exactly the same when I was reviewing this book, last year – it was so hard to put into words how fantastic it was. Not what I expected, but truly an amazing book. Great review! :-)

  10. Thank you for this review! I haven’t read any Patrick Ness yet (I know, shame on me). I’ve seen a lot of people posting about his books on Instagram. I wasn’t sure if he was for me, but your review has me convinced!

    • Ooh, I’m glad that I convinced you! His books are absolutely spectacular, and pretty unique too. I definitely recommend his Chaos Walking trilogy as well as A Monster Calls. I hope you enjoy them when you read them!

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