Book reviews

A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness

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

My rating: 99%

There is something uniquely beautiful about Patrick Ness’ books, their story line, the beautiful yet simplistic writing.
This one lived up to its standard and rose far above it.

This time, this book was based on a story by Siobhan Dowd who did not live far enough to complete this idea and so Patrick Ness picked it up and completed it. Personally, I’ve never read Siobhan’s books but if this was her idea, originally then I have no doubt that her books are amazing. And if Patrick Ness likes her, then I do, too.


This novel stood out from the majority of the YA genre. It was emotional and painfully honest. It touched on the issues of cancer, mourning and dealing with grief and all of these issues are represented in Conor who is only 13 yrs old and has a dying mother. Ness wrote his story in a simplistic manner, no drag alongs, no fantasying or romanticizing his situation. It was just written in plain, simple words. And as the story unfolds and more secrets are revealed, the truths become more bolder. Conor hides his grief as other schoolboys bully him. He hides himself in himself and supresses a particular nightmare which we later find out is his mother clinging to him from a cliff face and he lets her go. This dream is something that he despises about himself, he despises his feelings that he wants the pain to go away, he wants his mother’s sickness over and done with but at the same time, can’t let go of her. This part really delved into human nature, our contradicting thoughts and emotions that make us complicated and throughout the book he investigated the mystery of the human soul.
The monster makes this clear to us through his three stories;

“Because humans are complicated beasts.
How can a queen be a both a bad witch and a good witch?
How can a prince be a murderer and a saviour?
How can an apothecary be evil-tempered but right thinking?
How can a parson be wrong thinking but good hearted?
How can invisible men make themselves lonely by being seen?”

These are questions that he raises. And we realise at the end that there is never no good guy or bad guy there is just the truth. And only the truth can make everything clear. The truth without any preconceived ideas or emotions.

“If you speak the truth,
you will be able to face whatever comes”

He pushes Conor to speak the truth, that he just wants his mother to die already because no.1, it’s painful and no.2, he wants this pain to come already so that he can get it over and done with. Yet, still he is tying her down. These honest emotions that all people have and the ancient, wise voice of the monster is what gives each of the characters so much depth. There are layers and layers that make each character a real person. Conor’s school problems with his bullies and his cold-heartedness with an old friend occurs, frequently and each one of us have experienced times when we have lied to ourselves. This is what makes it so easy to relate to Conor.

This painfully honest story brought tears to my eyes and after finishing the book, it took A LOT of effort not to burst into tears and just cry and cry. And that is what felt like doing.
The monster sends the message of the importance of stories and the lessons it brings and he uses his own stories to help Conor, to guide him into the complex issue of good and bad – how a person is good and bad? – how do you know if a person is good and bad?

Tell me what you think?


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