10 Rated Books Book Reviews

Book Review: A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness

Title: A Monster Calls

Author: Patrick Ness (inspired by an idea by the late Siobhan Dowd) and with illustrations by Jim Kay

Genre: Fantasy/Contemporary YA

Publisher: Walker UK / Candlewick US
Publication date: 5 May 2011 (UK) / 27 September 2011 (US)
Hardcover: 224 pages

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 one he’s had nearly every night since his mother started her treatments, the one with the darkness and the wind and the screaming… The monster in his back garden, though, this monster is something different. Something ancient, something wild. And it wants the most dangerous thing of all from Conor. It wants the truth. Costa Award winner Patrick Ness spins a tale from the final idea of much-loved Carnegie Medal winner 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 of coming to terms with loss from two of our finest writers for young adults.

Stand alone or series: Stand alone

How did I get this book: Review copy from Walker

Why did I read this book: Thea is a HUGE Patrick Ness fan and has been raving about his books for a while. Then we got offered a copy and OMG when the book came in the post it was all I could do not devour it immediately – the packaging itself, the cover, the lettering, the illustrations, they are absolutely stunning. And THEN, I read this review and knew I just had to read it.


The monster first showed up after midnight – as they do – calling his name: Conor. For all intents and purposes, Conor should be terrified and yet he isn’t because there are things that terrify him more. Like for example, the nightmare. The one he has been having a lot lately, the one he’d rather not talk about. Just like he’d rather not talk about being bullied at school; or about not being on speaking terms with his former best friend Lily; or about his mom’s cancer treatments.

Conor is really not having the best of times which is why it sounds completely ridiculous to him when this monster, a creature out of the worst nightmares (or perhaps, not the worst nightmares, for they are of a different kind) shows up to tell him stories. He says he will tell Conor three stories and at the end of it, Conor will have to tell a fourth and that story will be the truth.

I don’t know what I was expecting from A Monster Calls but it most certainly wasn’t this…this explosive awesomeness. I did not expect this book be this exceptional and there is really no better word for it.

How can a book be about lessons without being about lessons? How can a book be subtle and yet so completely obvious? How can a book be funny and yet so tremendously sad? How can a story be so kind when it deals with such harsh realities? How can a book speak about humanity in general and about one person in particular and make sense and connect both in all of their greyness?How can a book have so many truths inside its pages that it makes me feel like it was written for ME?

I don’t know. I just know that A Monster Calls is all of those things and more. It is superb in its storytelling as it celebrates storytelling itself as the Monster tells his stories. It is unforgettable as it follows a young boy dealing with the saddest thing of all: the prospect of losing a mother. It is hopeful and beautiful even as it leads to the liberal production of heartfelt tears.[1. I am not exaggerating. Keep your tissue box at hand]

Sometimes people ask me why I read this or why I read that: Fantasy, Romance, Young Adult, Middle Grade, you name it, I have been asked why I read it. The answer is really, really simple:

I do it because I love good stories and I don’t care what shape or form (or genre or category) they appear before me. I do it because just like the Monster says in this very book:

“Stories are the wildest things of all”.

And I couldn’t be happier with my choices (and this is my own truth), by allowing myself to search for stories anywhere, I have encountered two of the most fabulous stories I have ever read in the space of a few weeks. Incidentally, both are children books with illustrations. The first was The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making by Catherynne M Valente and the other is of course, this one. Both are a triumph of the imagination and of the heart, both are incredibly powerful in their storytelling. And I am so glad that I have found these two stories out in the wild and that I have been able to know them.

It bears repeating: for this feeling alone, for feeling like my world expanded when I finished those pages, for getting to know these wonderful stories and these characters, this is why I read.

Notable quotes/parts:

Stories are wild creatures, the monster said. When you let them loose, who knows what havoc they might wreak?

Additional Thoughts: On top of being an awesome book period, A Monster Calls also has AWESOME illustrations by Jim Kay. Like for example, this one:

You can check more of his work on his website, which includes LOADS of images from this book as well.

Rating: 10 – Perfection. And it goes straight into my top 10 this year.

Reading next: What We Keep is Not Always What Will Stay by Amanda Cockrell


Buy the Book:

Ebook available for kindle and kindle UK

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  • Amy @ Turn the Page
    June 3, 2011 at 3:39 am

    Wonderful review – I am very excited about this book. And as an illustrator – Im so glad to see an illustrated book like this out there.

  • Karen Mahoney
    June 3, 2011 at 4:29 am

    You have totally sold this to me! I’ve not read Patrick Ness (still!), but this looks like the perfect introduction. 🙂

  • Karen Mahoney
    June 3, 2011 at 4:31 am

    Also, sorry I meant to say: Ana, what a beautifully written review. Your writing is so passionate and your love of reading comes through amazingly!


  • KMont
    June 3, 2011 at 5:07 am

    I really don’t think I’m ready for another book yet where tissues will be needed this much, but I do love your enthusiasm, so I’m putting it on my wish list. 😉

  • Chachic
    June 3, 2011 at 6:38 am

    Oh wow, such a passionate review! I was already convinced that I had to read this book even though I didn’t love The Knife of Never Letting Go but you made me want to read it RIGHT NOW. I know what you mean about reading good stories. *nods head*

  • Tina
    June 3, 2011 at 6:54 am

    I’m so happy this book is already on my TBR shelf. Reviews like this make me want to do two things: either drop the book I am reading now, or let the book linger there for a bad reading slump so it can pick me up. Ahhh. But still, so glad I have this. 😀

  • Meghan
    June 3, 2011 at 11:02 am

    Wow, incredible review! I bought this just recently and I meant to read it last weekend. I’ll definitely have to make time for it this weekend.

  • Lusty Reader
    June 3, 2011 at 11:22 am

    wow wow wow. you guys do it again. make me want to read a book i would normally immediately dismiss. i got such goosebumps reading the summary, and your review.

    “a triumph of the imagination and of the heart, both are incredibly powerful in their storytelling” i mean if you describe it thusly, how could i NOT read it? you guys review such awesome books, but your reviews themselves are also such great writing which bears mentioning 🙂

  • Ana
    June 3, 2011 at 11:29 am

    @ Amy: I love illustrated book and so glad to see many being published by some of our fave authors too. If you have any to recommend, it would be really appreciated.

    @ Karen: dude. DUDE. You trust me right? You going to love this book. I am taking this for you when we meet next. *hugs* And thank you, you are too nice to me.

    @ Kenda: Hope you get to it at some point! 😀

  • Ana
    June 3, 2011 at 11:34 am

    @ Chachic: I haven’t read his other books but I have this feeling that this is a HUGE departure from his other work. It does have a more contemporary YA feel to it, Monster and all. I hope you give this a chance. It is awesome.

    @ Tina: GO READ IT NOW! Just joking, hopefully you will love it as much as I did.

    @ Meghan! I am sure you will love it as much as the Other Ana and I did and then can talk about it in July! How about that?

    @ LustyReader: awww thanks dude 😳 I think this book would be liked by just about anyone really. I hope you do come around to read it one day….

  • Jackie Kessler
    June 3, 2011 at 11:39 am

    Dude. I **have** to read this book. I haven’t read any Ness yet, but clearly that must change!

  • April
    June 3, 2011 at 2:32 pm

    Oh my gosh, everything about this book seems so perfect and I must see about tracking down a copy ASAP.

    I’m so glad you both are around to make me aware or to remind me about amazing books and authors. 🙂

  • Jo
    June 3, 2011 at 2:46 pm

    color me forest green with envy that you got your hands on this book. 🙂

    I loved reading your review of it …. and can’t wait to get my own hands on a copy

  • Michelle
    June 3, 2011 at 9:55 pm

    Great review of the book A Monster Calls, this is definitely sold to me this is going to be the next book im going to read thanks for the review definitely awesome

  • Andrea
    June 5, 2011 at 11:59 am

    I’ve heard amazing stuff about this book so far, but your review and the one you linked to cemented it for me, so off to Book Depository I go!

  • Holly
    June 5, 2011 at 9:32 pm

    I loved the Chaos Walking series and didn’t hesitate to preorder this from Book Depository. When it arrived, I found it even more stunning in person. Photos of the cover, lettering, illustrations, etc. don’t do it justice.

    Then I sat down to read it, and though small in length I savored it over a few days. It packed a huge emotional punch that I am still processing, but my initial impression is that it is just as amazing if not more than his previous books. I can’t wait to write a review and lend my copy out to anyone even remotely interested.

    Thanks for the review!

  • jdfield
    June 8, 2011 at 4:56 am

    Wow, such a heartfelt review. You really put it out there. You make it sound somehow BIG like a book with ideas and imagination and images that really make it stand apart. Another book to put on the list, thank you.

  • Jaedia
    June 12, 2011 at 3:39 am

    This book sounds utterly fantastic – thanks for sharing it’s definitely going on my wishlist!

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  • Yeti
    January 27, 2012 at 3:31 am

    I did not like the his Chaos Walking books (well, I only read the first one and wanted throw it against the wall!!!). However, I am very intrigued by this book and the fact it sounds very different from his other stuff so, on the basis of your wonderful review, I’m adding it to my TBR pile 🙂

  • Yeti
    February 24, 2012 at 2:45 pm

    I’ve just finished reading this book, I really wanted to like it but I do believe I am the only person in the world that didn’t like it, doh! There were bits I liked but overall it wasn’t for me…maybe I just don’t like Patrick Ness’ style?

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