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A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness
Published by Candlewick Press
Pages: 224
Ages: 12 yrs and up
Buy It: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Powell’s Books | Indiebound | Book Depository
Publishers Summary:

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

Buried away in the deepest parts of us rest those secrets so profound and often infinitely terrifying that we’d do anything to keep them locked away for eternity. Conor contains one such secret. It’s not until a monster, filled with ancient secrets of his own, comes knocking that he begins to test the limits he’s set to keep his secret hidden. Will he be brave enough to share the truth with a monster set on leaving destruction where ever he goes? In the end, will the truth help his mother from dying of cancer? Conor may discover there is more to his terrifying visitor than appearances may suggest.

First of all I must warn everyone that I make no attempt beyond this point to cover any secrets lying within A Monster Calls. Over the last year I’ve agonized over writing this review and holding back details may be far from possible. That being said, I have no doubt that by the time you finish reading A Monster Calls that you will find yourself in a puddle of tears and grateful for having read such a brilliant piece of literature. Patrick Ness has written a book that not only has the ability to break your heart, but heal it as well. For this I’m profoundly grateful.

A little background…many of you may wonder why almost an entire year to write a review? At the time I finished reading A Monster Calls I was in the midst of a long waiting period involving my own cancer outcome. A handful of my close friends are aware of this, but for many months I struggled with the probability that I could potentially have and one day succumb to a form of cancer. Fortunately my tests, after a number of months, came back negative and I’ve been much healthier since. During that time one of the hardest things to come to terms with was the potential loss of my children. It’s difficult to imagine them growing up without me and it came with a great deal of comfort that if this awful outcome came to pass that I would have a book to give to them that would bring them some sort of peace. Needless to say, this was an incredibly emotional read for me and one I won’t soon forget.

Conor was to me what I’d expect any young boy who’s losing his one reliable parent would be; mad, confused, sad, angry and more. His confusion and denial of the inevitable lead to the coming of the Monster. What I found appealing about the Monster’s character and his relationship to Conor was how he manifested clearly that aggression and fear that Conor had bottled up inside. In fact, on one occasion Conor finds himself in an entirely destroyed room at his Grandmother’s house without recognizing the cause of the destruction, himself and not the Monster. Through the various stories the Monster shares with Conor he slowly peels back the layers of Conor’s armor, literally calling him to bring forth the truth. The truth about how he feels about the potential loss of his mother and how he chooses to hide it, most especially from her.

One of the most profound things happened during my attendance at the LA Times Festival of Books when Patrick Ness sat on a panel discussing his writing. He shared the fact that when he writes he never begins a story until he knows the final sentence of the book. Now, I’m sure many of you are thinking that it couldn’t possibly be that important, but it truly is. For example, the last sentence of A Monster Calls from pg. 205 of the ARC:

And by doing so, he could finally let her go.

Having read the entire book, going back with this new knowledge brings greater meaning to the importance of what Patrick Ness was attempting to share through Conor’s story. Coupled with the knowledge that the book was originally to be written by Siobhan Dowd, another brilliant author who died prematurely of cancer in 2007, this is not only a story of a boy losing his mother, but much more. It’s a story of hope, of the peace that comes from opening yourself up to the truth and the freedom you can feel by accepting those things you fear most.

A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness is one of the most heart wrenching, honest and brilliant novels ever written. As a young boy, Conor, faces the potential loss of his mother he’s helped by the most unlikely of characters, a monster. Through the Monster’s stories, his interactions with Conor and the influence he has on Conor the truth is finally able to surface. And as the truth is revealed Conor is finally able to overcome his fear and accept the path that lies ahead of him.

The1stdaughter Recommends: Ages 10 and up. A novel for young and old alike. This is a story of courage and truth in the face of great fear and loss. I would highly recommend A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness to those struggling with the loss of a loved one, especially one afflicted with cancer.

One of the most powerful book trailers I’ve ever viewed, A Monster Calls:

A Monster Calls Discussion Guide (PDF)
Patrick Ness’s Top 10 “Unsuitable” Books for Teenagers (PDF)

Find A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness at the following spots:
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Powell’s Books | Indiebound | Book Depository | Goodreads

Thank you so much to the publisher, Candlewick Press, for providing a copy of this book for review! Connect with them on Twitter, Google+ and on Facebook!
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19 Responses to Book Review: A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness

  1. I have heard nothing but amazing things about this one. I really can not wait to get it. I need the audio though.

    I can’t believe you pondered your review that long! You go girl! That’s commitment to your blog and readers.

    • You’d love it and I think you’d love the audio! It’s preformed by Tom Felton, the actor who played Draco Malfoy in Harry Potter. It’s supposedly brilliant! You really must listen to it.

      It’s not a normal thing for me to wait that long, but this one just took time. I’m glad I waited. 🙂

  2. Gina says:

    Wow…WONDERFUL review Danielle. Both personal and insightful and despite your worry of spoiling things for potential readers, I think you did rather well. I know my attention was captured and I’m sure many out there will have the same result. Thanks for sharing! *hugs*

  3. Mary says:

    Thanks for the terrific review. I’ve been wanting to read this book.

  4. kimba88 says:

    What a lovely, awesome, powerful review. SOLD!

  5. what a lovely review and its special when a book really touches you. I had no idea about cancer. Hugs

  6. Mardel says:

    I’m sad that you had to go through a cancer threat and very, very glad that you’re okay now. It’s so weird when you are living with the knowledge of having a potentially fatal disease – I was diagnosed as having emphysema, told my lungs were at 51% capacity and that every year my lung capacity would diminish….two years ago. I remember this cloud over my head, and yet at the same time so many things ended up being unimportant….and then I was recently told I’ve been misdiagnosed – no emphysema. I have a paralyzed diaphragm which has made my right lung about a quarter of the size it should be – and basically non-functional. So I’m living with one lung – which is still better than actively dying of emphysema.

    Sounds like a great book and I’m glad you felt able to finish the review. Must have been both difficult and compelling to read this with your own troubles.

    btw – ever since I’ve had my four kids – from day one, I’ve always had in the back of my mind this fervent thankfulness that they haven’t come down with any of the childhood fatal diseases that so many children succumb to. I even worried incessantly about SIDS – to the point where I kept each baby in the bed with me until they turned three years old. Had this completely irrational belief that I could keep them from dying of SIDS by just having them near me. Us moms can be high strung at times – 🙂

    I hope you the best in everything – life is so precious – both your’s and your babies’.

    • Oh wow Mardel. How terrible. Not knowing and waiting is one thing, but thinking you have something for so long and suddenly being told it’s something different…wow. Thankfully at least the new diagnosis is for the better! Yay!

      This was definitely hard to read while I was going through all of that, but also comforting in a way.

      Our kiddos are a tough thing, aren’t they? I’d never have imagined feeling the way I do about them. It’s hard to put into words, but I’ve been in your same shoes since the day they were born. I’m sure, like you said, it’s all irrational but as a mom you just can’t seem to help it. That’s okay though, they know they’re loved that’s for sure. 🙂

  7. PragmaticMom says:

    It sounds like an amazing book and a must read for any child who has a parent with a serious illness.

  8. Jen says:

    I agree – it is such an amazing book that tears your heart apart but also rebuilds it for you. It’s beautiful. I think so many different people can relate to it in some sense but it sounds like you really were able to relate to it. Life is scary sometimes but I love how this book writes Conor’s story in such a way that you feel like life is scary for everyone and that we all do the best we can with what we are given. I love your review and this book. Thank you for sharing your story! 🙂

  9. I love your review–it gave me tingles to read about your experiences and how you related to the story. I loved this book also. To me, it is very nearly literary perfection, the way the illustrations and the story and the cover and the trailer all come together. Absolutely beautiful.

    • Thank you so so much! This book is incredibly powerful and such a gorgeous package in it’s entirety. I’m so glad it won both the Carnegie and Greenway awards! SO well deserved. 🙂

  10. Vicky says:

    This is an amazing book, i am reading it at school and it’s really good. Gets everyone reading and allways leavs us wanting to read more !!

  11. […] this novel perfect for adult readers due to the maturity and realness the issues are dealt with. Blogger There’sABook, wrote about her cancer scare and how this book affected her, “It’s difficult to imagine them [her children] growing up […]

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