Monday, February 22, 2016

Review: A Monster Calls – Patrick Ness (Author), Jim Kay (Illustrator), Siobhan Dowd (Concept)

A Monster Calls – Patrick Ness (Author), Jim Kay (Illustrator), Siobhan Dowd (Concept)

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.

Review: Brace yourself for my terrible bookish photography.

I knew that I needed A Monster Calls as soon as I saw the illustrations. I didn’t care what the story was about. I couldn’t pass up those pictures, and I still can’t believe I found such a pretty book in a used bookstore.

Luckily, the story is just as beautiful as the illustrations.

Thirteen-year-old Conor’s mother has cancer, and he’s struggling to cope with her illness and the changes it causes in his life. Then, a monster starts coming to his window at night. The monster tells Conor stories that are supposed to help him, but they confuse him instead. Conor doesn’t understand his complex feelings about his mother’s illness until he starts telling the monster stories of his own.

I seriously can’t come up with anything I didn’t like about this book. It’s a children’s/middlegrade book that doesn’t lie to its young readers. How awesome is that? It shows all the frustration, anger, sadness, and exhaustion of caring for a sick family member. It lets young people know that it’s normal to have less-than-positive thoughts about a difficult situation. You don’t have to pretend that everything is okay when you know it isn’t. It shows that life is complicated, and sometimes if you do everything exactly right, things can still go wrong. It’s refreshing to find a book that’s so honest. I wish this story had been around when I was a kid. Child-me needed it desperately.

The writing and the story are so good. Conor’s emotions are raw and realistic, but the story has a whimsical quality. It’s written like a modern-day fairytale, and it’s brilliant.

When I first read the synopsis of this book, I was worried that the monster would symbolize something cliché and stupidly obvious (such as cancer or grief), but it didn’t! The monster is more than a symbol. He’s an actual character with a strong personality and a lot of opinions.

I also love Conor’s reaction to the monster when they first meet. Conor isn’t scared because he’s seen scarier things in his life. His reaction is perfect. It lets the reader know so much about his character. This kid must have been through a lot to be unfazed by a house-sized monster randomly showing up at his window.

Another great character is Conor’s friend, Lily. Like all of the human characters in this book, she’s very realistic. She makes some mistakes, but she tries to fix them, and it’s really sweet.

I could keep gushing about this book forever, but I’m going to shut up before I give away spoilers. If it isn’t obvious, I think this story is amazing. It has some of the most interesting illustrations I’ve ever seen in a book, and it’s definitely a new favorite. For an adult, it’s a super-quick read, so go read it.

This is what's under the dust jacket. How can you pass up a book that looks so good naked?


  1. I'm so halt to see you Lord this! I wad on the fence but I think I'll have to pick it up now. Great review!!

  2. I have the paperback edition which while gorgeous isn't nearly as pretty naked O.O I loved the book so much that perhaps I need another edition... I'm glad you enjoyed it!
    Enchanted by YA

    1. I was surprised that it looks so good naked. Most of my hardcover books are pretty boring under their clothes.

      Aj @ Read All The Things!

  3. This book sounds so good. I loved Patrick Ness's Chaos Walking series.
    Krystianna @ Downright Dystopian

  4. I'm really glad I read this review because I actually started this one and then gave up after a couple chapters because I also thought the monster was going to end up being something really stupid. Maybe now I'll give it another chance... Great review!

    Tracy @ Cornerfolds

    1. I was so happy that the monster turned out to be an actual character. I was prepared to hate the book if it was just a symbol.

      Aj @ Read All The Things!

  5. Gah! I was gifted the exact same edition as yours during Christmas 2014 and I LOVE IT. Luckily, and like you, I adored the book just as much as the illustrations. Though this isn't usual read, I tend to love MG stories and like you said: the honesty at play here considering the target age was amazing! I just got so many feels reading this book ♥ Gorgeous review and photos!!

  6. The book really is beautiful. I've been meaning to read this book for ages and you've just reminded me again I need to read it.

  7. I've been dying to read this book for a long time now, but I did hear it is a really sad book. And that's why I was a bit hesitant to read it, but after reading your review and seeing the beautiful illustration in the book. I really want to check out this book soon. Thank you for your great post.

  8. Oh wow, I MUST get a physical copy of this book! That is GORGEOUS. I read it on my Kindle, which I really wish I hadn't done. I think the impact would have been greater with a physical copy. But it is still incredible. And beautifully devastating, basically. I am so glad you loved it so much, and thanks for sharing the gorgeous pictures!!