Book Review: A Monster Calls

“You do not write your life with words…You write it with actions. What you think is not important. It is only important what you do.” 
― Patrick Ness, A Monster Calls

Book Title: A Monster Calls
Author: Patrick Ness
Publication Date: 2011
Genres: Fiction, Fantasy, Young Adult
Goodreads Rating: 4.33 Stars
My Rating: 5 Stars

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.

1. Short, but in a good way. I read this book in 1 hour and 45 minutes. When I say “read”, I mean devoured. Maybe it helped that I was home alone, sitting outside in the sunshine with the dog on my lap, but I didn’t once have the urge to put this book down. It was exactly as long as it needed to be, and I’m still reeling a bit from reading it so quickly.

2. Poignant. This book would be the dictionary definition of the poignant. Conor, who is thirteen years old, has a secret guilt that he is hiding from everyone. Ironically, the first person to see through his façade is his tormentor, Harry. We don’t know what Conor’s secret guilt is until the end of the book, but by then, I felt so much compassion and pain for him, I would have forgiven anything he confessed.

3. So. Personal. This book isn’t amazing because it has a great plot or character development. It’s amazing because of the way it forces the reader to look inside of themselves. We are continuously brought back to Conor’s nightmare and wondering what it is. Throughout the novel, I found myself going back over and over to try to figure out what my “monster” would be. What is my secret sin? What is the guilt I am (needlessly) carrying with me? 24 hours later and I’m still continuously going back to these thoughts, which is the sign of a great book.

Ness does a great job of slowly revealing Conor’s “monster”, and, in the meantime, causing the reader to question their own demons.

“There is not always a good guy. Nor is there always a bad one. Most people are somewhere in between.”

“Your mind will believe comforting lies while also knowing the painful truths that make those lies necessary. And your mind will punish you for believing both.”

“Because humans are complicated beasts, the monster said. How can a queen be both a good witch and a bad 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 more lonely by being seen?”

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