A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness Review 5/5

Overall Impression: A unique and powerful book unlike any other I have read. It’s raw, emotional and haunting.

A Monster Calls by Patrick NessA Monster Calls is a book that has received multiple awards. It’s one of those that is praised everywhere and I have yet to read a single negative review of it. This initially made me petrified to pick it up because I was worried it couldn’t possibly live up to my preconceived expectations. But it turns out I didn’t need to worry because this book was phenomenal.
I was told it was dark.
I was told there would be a sad young boy.
I was told there would be tears.
But none of this prepared me for the sledgehammer of emotions I was hit with as I made my way through its gorgeous illustrated pages.

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.

I want to preface this review by saying that I feel like it’s impossible I will be able to do this book justice, so much of the magic in this story lies in reading it, experiencing and uncovering its truths for yourself. But, as always, I will do my best (and waffle on for far too long)!

So, the first thing worth knowing about this novel is that Patrick Ness is a magnificent writer. He uses the writing technique that I adore most if it’s done correctly, the regular use of short sentences that say little but carry tremendous weight. If you’re not sure what I mean by this you can see its use in the blurb, and how that final line about wanting the truth feels so compelling and dramatic as you read it. This style is used throughout, which had me drooling at Ness’s ability to bend words to his will in such an effective way. He engaged my attention from page one and it wasn’t long before he had me marveling at the beauty of words. The best thing of all, perhaps, is that Ness has managed to create a book that transcends genre boundaries and cannot be put into a box. His story is both contemporary and fantasy and could possibly be labeled magical realism, but it also has an undeniable dark fairytale feel that has the potential to be as memorable as any written by the Brothers Grimm or Hans Christian Andersen.

a monster calls illustration.

A Monster Calls tells the story of a 13 year old boy who has been suffering from a reoccurring nightmare. So when a tree-like monster approaches Conor’s window he assumes it is another of his dreams, except, when he wakes up he finds leaves all over his bedroom floor. The Monster claims that it was summoned and says it will tell Conor three stories. What he doesn’t realise, is that the monster is there to help him come to terms with what he has known all along, but has shoved so deeply into the depths of his mind that it only surfaces occasionally in bouts of anger and destruction. His mother is sick, and she is not getting better.

Ultimately, this is a book about grief – coming to terms with everything you have ever known and always thought you could rely on falling to pieces around you, learning that it’s okay to let go, to feel hopeless, or to just want something to be over because the fear and dread of waiting for it is an unbearable weight to carry. It’s heartbreaking. I found myself regularly misting up as the book progressed, and by the end I was full on ugly crying and my heart felt like it physically hurt with the unfairness of the world. This is a book that will make you want to hug your friends and family and stop to appreciate the life you have a little bit more. Ness teaches us that the most terrifying monster of all is real life, because it’s something that does not go away. It cannot be stopped or denied, and you can’t wake up at the end to realise it was all a dream. Yet, at the same time, A Monster Calls is a healing book that shows there is light even in darkness.

a monster calls illustrationn

Conor the protagonist was great to read about. You don’t get to learn much about him because his situation is all encompassing leaving little thought for much else, but you do get to find out a lot through his reactions to ongoing events. I loved that he was such a conflicted character with so many thoughts and emotions he didn’t want to address. I wanted to scream at the characters as they tiptoed around him throwing sympathetic glances and special treatment his way, to the point where his behaviour continued to escalate because he wanted to be punished, not only to feel normal but as penance for his inner thoughts. I loved that the book explored how Conor’s relationships with friends and peers shifted as well. While secondary characters have little page time in this novel, they all made an impression on me, Conor’s dad and his inability to step up, Conor’s mum and her desperate hope, and finally Conor’s unapproachable gran, the only one willing to face the truth.

a monster calls illustration

Overall, despite its whimsical imagery and fantasy elements, A Monster Calls is a beautiful, utterly unique novel about the harsh realities of life, coming to terms with grief and accepting your emotions. It’s full of self-destructive but also healing emotions that anyone who has experienced loss will relate to. To those considering picking up this book, I would recommend you go for the illustrated version which is full of dramatic black and white moody imagery (such as the ones scattered throughout this post) which adds a whole other dimension to the book, enhancing the reading experience! (The cover with flowers on doesn’t have the illustrations.) This is a children’s book, but it doesn’t feel like one with its universal heavy topics. Therefore, I would recommend A Monster Calls to anyone and everyone!

Writing Style: 5/5
Originality: 5/5
Entertainment: 5/5
Character Development: 4/5
Would I recommend this book? Absolutely!

Overall: 5/5

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37 thoughts on “A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness Review 5/5

  1. Still loving the new look! Also, while I think this book might be a bit too emotionally draining for me, I think the way you talked about it in your review was lovely. I honestly feel like I got to experience the book without actually reading it. I’m glad I gave you all the feels. 🙂

  2. If there was ever a story worth five stars, this would be it. Your moving review made me tear up again just re-reading about it. 🙂

    It certainly sucker punched me…I was expecting a children’s book and got so much more. It’s a wonderfully simple story, and those are always the ones that stick with you.

    • Agreed! It’s so unique, powerful and simple like you say. All awesome things I look for in a book, and it helped that Ness had the PERFECT writing style for my reading taste. Sucker punched is definitely the word to use for this novel.

      I’m so happy that you liked the review and found it moving, it was so difficult to write! I’m glad it brought back memories of the story all over again. 🙂

  3. Wow! I really loved this review. i normally tend to avoid big ones, *sigh, but I was so hooked. I can only imagine what the book must have in it. So excited to read it next month. I can’t even….. 🙂

  4. And on my TBR list it goes. I enjoyed reading your review Becky. I haven’t yet read a book by Ness but I hope to start this summer with “The Rest of Us Just Live Here.” “A Monster Calls” does sound like a powerful read. Right up my alley.

    • Yay! You won’t regret it. 🙂 So happy to hear you enjoyed the review. This was my first Ness book and now I can’t wait to try some of his others. I own More Than This which I will probably pick up next, but like you, I am also itching to get my hands on The Rest of Us Just Live Here. It sounds amazing! Let’s hope it lives up to both of our expectations.

  5. Patrick Ness is one of the most amazing writers I have ever read. More Than This?! A freaking masterpiece. I also have part of his trilogy on my shelf but I haven’t had a chance to read it yet. I can’t wait to start though.
    I usually steer clear of illustrated books, but you may have sold me on this one 🙂
    Can’t wait to get started!

    • Ooooh, I own More Than This! I was thinking of picking it up as my next Ness read so I’m glad to hear you enjoyed it. The cover INTRIGUES ME. 🙂 I own his trilogy as well but I don’t feel like digging into another series right now.
      This was the first illustrated book I’d ever read, but I thought it worked really well with the story. If you’re not sold on that aspect though you could always go for the non-illustrated version.

      Let me know what you think if you pick it up. 🙂

      • DEFINITELY READ MORE THAN THIS NEXT! And as for the cover? It actually TIES INTO THE STORY. Oh, it’s beautiful. And yeah, new series can be quite the commitment!
        And I’ll see how I go with illustrated v non-illustrated. But I will definitely keep you posted!

  6. This book is absolutely amazing. Everything is perfect: the writing style, the plot and the main character. This is such a thought-provoking novel. I loved it.

  7. This is an absolutely brilliant review. You described exactly the emotions I went through as I was reading this incredible book. I read this in ebook form, but I think it may be one that I have to buy to place in a special place on my bookshelf :).

    • Thanks muchly, Cindy! It was so DIFFICULT to write. I think I wrote and rewrote paragraphs SO MANY TIMES. It was hard to explain why this book was awesome and also to know how much to give away so I’m glad that I was able to capture the emotions in a way that you could relate to your own reading experience. 🙂

      ebook form? Nooooooooooo!!! This one is definitely worthy of a physical copy, IT IS SO BEAUTIFUL. Trust me, it is worth it. 🙂

  8. I’M SO PLEASED YOU ENJOYED THIS. I knew you would. Reading your review brought back all of my thoughts and emotions when I read the book for the first time! I definitely need to try more of Patrick Ness’ work if this is anything to go by.

    • ME TOO. The hype almost scared me off! I’m glad it brought back all the emotions and can I just say, your review of this was fabulous. I had a little reread of it after I’d finished mine and you captured this book PERFECTLY.

      Agreed, I think I might try out More Than This next because I already own it. 🙂

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  10. I’ve been hearing a lot of good things about this lately and about the rest of Patrick Ness’ books especially The Chaos Walking trilogy. But I haven’t read any of his books yet, I think I need to check this one out! 🙂

    • And for good reason! This book is so unique and powerful, and although this is the only book of Ness’s I’ve read, I’ve heard amazing things about his other books like you have. 🙂 He’s definitely worth checking out if you have space on your tbr!

  11. Wow. This story sounds epic and devastating. Great review, Becky.
    I’ll shop around for the illustrated version – I’m down for the moody black and white imagery. 🙂

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  13. “yippee ye yi ya ” i luckily got to read, ‘ a monster calls ‘, and luckier, is to still have my mum (and dad!)
    i dread that time i have to say goodbye.

    Such a beautiful story in both appearance and word, well deserving of it’s praise.

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