Flannery's Reviews > A Monster Calls

A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness
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's review
Nov 07, 2011

it was amazing
bookshelves: i-wouldnt-read-on-the-t, kcls, read-in-2011
Recommended to Flannery by: Goodreaders
Recommended for: Anyone
Read from November 02 to 03, 2011 , read count: 1

Last Fourth of July, I played a party game called Time’s Up with some friends. The gist of the game is that everyone has a partner and you start with a certain number of cards as a group—say 40. Each one has a different movie/television show/book title on it and you use the same cards for the entire game so if you have great recall, the game is much easier. In the first round, you try to get your partner to guess the title by describing the movie without using specific words. (like Taboo) The second round involves trying to get your partner to guess the movie by saying one word. The third round is charades. This game is hilariously fun because I get to watch people try to act out Bridge on the River Kwai and to see what the one word they’d pick is to sum something up. So many books are utterly forgettable. I read too much to remember all the details of everything over time. I reached 1,000 books read last week and so what if somewhere around 150 of those are children’s books, it is still a milestone. 1,000 books further down the line, I’ll still remember A Monster Calls. While it would be a completely useless one word sum-up for the party board game, the one word for this book is beautiful because it is just that, inside and out.

I think it is lovely that Patrick Ness took a story idea from an author we lost too early, Siobhan Dowd. I’d read reviews of A Monster Calls before going into it so I knew what I was getting into, but in case you don’t, this is about a boy dealing with losing his mother to cancer. I have not experienced the loss of a parent but this book did not feel emotionally manipulative to me, and from what I’ve taken away from other reviews, the feelings reflected by Conor ring true for at least a large portion of people who have gone through that nightmare themselves. No part of the book felt cliché to me either, which I frankly found surprising. There is an absolute skill to taking a heavier theme, writing a book for children or young adults, and making it not only accessible but I daresay appealing to adults. I’ve never read anything Ness has written beyond this but I definitely will be doing so. He isn’t condescending to children. He doesn’t tell saccharine fairy tales, and I loved that. I guessed what the monster was there for all along but that takes nothing away from the book and the way the yew tree was brought into the story, through references and illustrations by Jim Kay was perfect. On Kay’s website, he discusses the cover image and says,

“I have very fond childhood memories of being in the back seat of a car watching fields and farmland rush by. During the hour of twilight, the familiar objects began to lose their definition, became dark, anonymous forms. The countryside at night through the window of a car was both frightening and compelling; the everyday merged with the unknown, and this is how Patrick’s story felt to me.” (1)

You and me, both, Mr. Kay. The eerie artwork paired perfectly with Conor's story. The whole book felt like he was stuck in an in-between place, which I suppose he was. Those aren't places I like to spend a lot of time but every once in a while...

I won a signed copy of this from my friend Jo's blog, Wear the Old Coat. It was definitely a prized treasure of mine from the moment I unwrapped the parcel.
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Comments (showing 1-24 of 24) (24 new)

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message 1: by Nomes (new) - added it

Nomes I'm thinking your 5 stars says a bit... :)

Nicola I've never seen a book get so many five stars! I'm so excited to read it!

Tina I am liking your review now even if you're still thinking about what to say. :)

Wendy Darling So many lovely reviews have been written on this already. I have to think about what to say, if anything...

Don't be lazy.

message 5: by K.D. (new) - added it

K.D. Absolutely Oh yeah, my young friends were reading this during our out-of-town trip last month and they were all raving about this.

message 6: by Jo (new) - rated it 5 stars

Jo Oi pull your socks up, Flann, and write a review.
Trust you to be difficult.
(view spoiler)

Wendy Darling She doesn't seem to be responding to guilt trips, Jo...

message 8: by Jo (new) - rated it 5 stars

Jo Don't worry, Wen. I am 100% sure she is currently in the midst of writing the most beautiful and heart breaking review (complete with illustrations, of course) and that is why she hasn't replied yet.

But if not... you know what to do.

*cracks knuckles*

Aly (Fantasy4eva) LOL Jo! :D Yay for the five stars :)

Wendy Darling Worth waiting for, Flann. I'm really glad you loved it--and thanks for the Jim Kay quote, too.

And my word for the game, for Bridge on the River Kwai: (view spoiler) Is that usable? Or is it TABOO?

How weird, because I just referenced this exact same book in my review of Tankborn.

message 11: by Nomes (new) - added it

Nomes Love the review

(view spoiler)


message 12: by Nomes (new) - added it

Nomes (view spoiler)

I am SO good at Taboo. And modest too. I would love to play against you Flann, or on the same side. We could find common ground over al our literary connections...

So, I am dying to get my hands on this book now. Even with the topic of cancer.

I feel as though I should read his Chaos Walking books (or at least #1) but I read the first chapter online and it drove me crazy...

In other news, you were totally bullied into writing this review ;)

Speaking of the artwork ~ do you think it is weird they are bringing out paperback copies with different cover art on it? cover art that does not match the art inside:
A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness Sieben Minuten nach Mitternacht by Patrick Ness (don't mind the Seiben Minuten rah-rah one)

message 13: by Tina (last edited Nov 08, 2011 02:10AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Tina Nomes wrote: "Speaking of the artwork ~ do you think it is weird they are bringing out paperback copies with different cover art on it? "

I am not feeling the white cover. :/ It makes the book seem less...serious. The Sieben Minuten looks okay, but the white one looks kind of off for me.

@Flannery: Great review. :)

message 14: by Shirley (new)

Shirley Marr I've been wanting to get me some Patrick Ness for some time, this review just confirms that I MUST. Thanks Flan, outstanding.

Aly (Fantasy4eva) Nomes wrote: "[spoilers removed]

I am SO good at Taboo. And modest too. I would love to play against you Flann, or on the same side. We could find common ground over al our literary connections...

So, I am dyi..."

Nomes I really hope you get it, it's a wonderful book. A definite highlight this year. Lovely review!

message 16: by Lynne (new)

Lynne Hollingsworth Thank you for an awesome review. I lost my Mom to cancer so I am extremely interested in reading "Monster Calls".

Noelle I just love your reviews, Flannery. You always pick up on the things that are so hard for me to vocalize but just get me right here in the chest. That Kay quote is beautiful too. Thanks for sharing!

Flannery @ Nomes--Because I am so modest as well, I can tell you that I would CRUSH you at Taboo. (view spoiler) I don't like the white cover much either. After reading one review on GR, I get nervous about people not knowing what this book is about. If they love Patrick Ness, they'd totally pick up a book with just leaves all over the cover, eh?

@WD--I'm sure it was 50% subconscious remembering from your review and 50% it actually being a card in the game. (view spoiler)

@the rest of you awesome people--Thanks:) I think this book really packs a punch. I was just reading along through the entire thing and enjoying the feel of it all. At the end, I just thought it was tremendously well done.

Wendy Darling Of course, Nomes, she totally needed bullying! ;)

Kwai is suitable for all occasions, Flann. Have you played Catch Phrase? It sounds kind of similar to the game you're talking about. But never mind, back to the lovely book and the lovely review!

message 20: by Stephen (new) - added it

Stephen Great review, Flannery. I am looking forward to reading this.

Flannery There's a few months to plan for this year. Perhaps we could do something Goodreads-related?

message 22: by John (new) - rated it 5 stars

John Corwin Just read this book. I'm not ashamed to admit I cried.

Laura Lovely review! You are so right. It is a story I will carry with me—not to be forgotten.

message 24: by Mike (new) - rated it 5 stars

Mike Very much enjoyed your take on this one, Flannery. It truly is a beautiful and heartbreaking book.

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