Review: A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness

Next time you need either a) a good cry, or b) a reminder that you do in fact have a heart, read A Monster Calls. I’m not kidding when I say I don’t think I’ve ever cried as hard from a book. Not even when reading A Man Called Ove. It took me a good 30 minutes to stop blubbering. (And, I’d like to mention, the dogs didn’t even care.)

Lest that turn you off, please please please take my word that A Monster Calls is one of the most beautiful books you’ll ever read. Devastating, but beautiful.

The basic premise is that Conor’s mom has cancer. His dad isn’t really in the picture, and he doesn’t really want his grandmother around. It’s always been Conor and his mom, and he’d like it to stay that way thankyouverymuch. One night, after waking from yet another nightmare, Conor sees that the yew tree in his yard has turned into a monster, and is beckoning him. Turns out, the monster is there to tell Conor 3 stories, and then, Conor will tell him a 4th. That 4th story will be Conor’s “truth” – though Conor has no idea what that means.

At least, that’s the surface story. A Monster Calls is an allegory for grief, really, and done in such a way that anyone who’s ever lost someone will appreciate. Throughout the story, the Monster walks Conor through the stages of loss and grief, eventually bringing the story to a heartbreaking – yet uplifting and even cathartic – ending.

A Monster Calls is one of those books that will stay with you long after you read it. I keep thinking about the book my mom hated reading to me as a kid – I’ll Love You ForeverIt wasn’t until I was in my teens that I understood why she cried so hard every time I asked her to read it. To me, the book was a sing-songy story about having a mom – to her, it was a painful reminder that some day, we’d say goodbye. For me, A Monster Calls one was similar, but there’s a comforting aspect there too. I hope someday I have my own monster holding me.
A Monster Calls was made into a movie last year, with Liam Neeson as the yew tree. Much as I love Neeson, this is one adaptation I think I’ll pass up. Too many feels.

Hardcover: 216 pages    Published: May 2011 by Walker Books    Source: Library via Overdrive

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A Monster Calls on Goodreads

An unflinching, darkly funny, and deeply moving story of a boy, his seriously ill mother, and an unexpected monstrous visitor.

At seven minutes past midnight, thirteen-year-old Conor wakes to find a monster outside his bedroom window. But it isn’t the monster Conor’s been expecting – he’s been expecting the one from his nightmare, the nightmare he’s had nearly every night since his mother started her treatments. The monster in his backyard is different. It’s ancient. And wild. And it wants something from Conor. Something terrible and dangerous. It wants the truth. From the final idea of award-winning author Siobhan Dowd – whose premature death from cancer prevented her from writing it herself – Patrick Ness has spun a haunting and darkly funny novel of mischief, loss, and monsters both real and imagined.

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