A Monster Calls [Book Review]

A Monster CallsBy Grace Heine

Title: A Monster Calls
Written by: Patrick Ness
Genre: Children’s Fantasy
Publisher: Candlewick Press
Publication Date: 2011
Paperback: 206 pages

Stories are wild creatures, the monster said. When you let them loose, who knows what havoc they might wreak?” (Page 51)

  • A boy who watches his mother slip closer and closer to death.
  • A boy who wants to be punished.
  • A boy who will hurt anyone he can to get what he wants.
  • A boy who has a monster.
  • A boy who is a monster.

One night, the churchyard yew tree walks up to Conor O’Malley’s bedroom window and promises to tell him three stories. Conor doesn’t want to listen to fairytales and he most certainly does not want to tell the fourth tale as the monster has ordered he do. He isn’t frightened by its threats because there are much bigger monsters calling.

A Monster Calls is shelved as “Children’s Fantasy” but it shouldn’t be.

I would never recommend this book for young children and I’m not even sure I’d recommended it for teens.

A Monster Calls has no happy ending and neither do the tales the monster tells Conor.

This book is brutal – a psychological fantasy if such a genre existed.

Conor is a broken little boy who had to grow up much too fast. For a reason I can’t say without spoiling the book, he hates himself and wants to be punished. The scenes where he shows his desire to be punished range from being disturbing to being just plain frightening.

He hurts himself, and he hurts others.

I will throw in the fact that I am a very sensitive reader and most people will probably not find anything in this book worthy of a “mature content” label.

The story behind A Monster Calls is just as heartbreaking as the book itself.

Award winning author, Siobhan Dowd originally came up with the idea for A Monster Calls. However in 2004, she was diagnosed with breast cancer and in August of 2007 she died leaving behind two finished manuscripts (published posthumously) and 1,500 words of a new story she was working on.

Her editor gave the unfinished manuscript for what Dowd called Mistress Yew, to children’s author, Patrick Ness. He was hesitant at first to write the book but after reading Dowd’s detailed outline he got his “first idea,” and in 2011, A Monster Calls was published.

A Monster Calls was the first book to win the Carnegie and Kate Greenaway prize, for writing and illustration respectively.

Referring to the sentence above, I want to mention the pictures in A Monster Calls.

The first time I read this book, the library copy I read was the movie-tie-in version with no pictures. When doing research for today’s post I kept seeing comments on how beautiful the illustrations for this book were – and I was confused.

Eventually, I figured out why the book I read had no pictures and this time when I ordered it from the library I made sure to get one with Jim Kay’s illustrations.

My word.

The pictures are not detailed but they are full of detail.

I’m sorry for the oxymoron but that’s all I can say about the beautiful drawings in A Monster Calls.

I don’t want to recommend A Monster Calls to anyone but I think late teen or adult readers who enjoy psychological horror, or some twisted sort of horror/fantasy genre will like this book.

For More Information about the Book and Author Patrick Ness Click: HERE

For More Information about Siobhan Dowd Click: HERE

Age Range: 15 and up

Cautions*Contains Slight Spoilers*
Violence: Man murders a girl in cold blood. Conor is punched in the gut. Conor bites the inside of his lip so hard it bleeds. Conor is tripped down a flight of stairs. Lily pushes Harry. Graphic descriptions of a person screaming. A woman is dragged into a black pit by a monster. A house is smashed to splinters. Two girls die of sickness. Conor destroys the sitting room and his hands get bloody/the nails are torn off. Conor breaks Harry’s arm, nose, and several teeth. Battles, people dying in battles, slaying dragons, ripping off a person’s head, burning at the stake and poisonings are mentioned.
Sensuality: Conor’s parents are divorced. Two people sleep naked together.
Profanity: a-s, d—-t, h–l, c–p, God’s name is taken in vain, and people are called witch and stupid.
Other(drugs/alcohol): People lie. People throw up. Conor’s mum has cancer. The Second Tale’s villain is a preacher. A woman is a witch. Description of Conor’s mum in the hospital. Farting, graveyards, zombies, being drunk, and smoking are mentioned.

Personal Rating: 3 out of 5 stars
Cleanness Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

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Check out my other reviews at Her Homeschooled Highness Reviews blog!

Grace Heine is a sixteen-year-old wanna be writer who spends most of her time reading, writing, playing piano, or finding clever ways to be unproductive. You can visit her book review blog here.

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