Barb Middleton's Reviews > A Monster Calls

A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness
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Feb 13, 12

bookshelves: fantasy, horror, realistic, ya
Read in November, 2011

Conor’s nightmare starts the day his Mom starts her cancer treatments. He dreads going to sleep. When he looks out his window in London, England at 12:07 he sees a monster outside, but it isn’t the terrifying one from his nightmare – in fact it doesn’t frighten him at all. The monster tells Conor 3 stories that are more like parables. Each story can be interpreted different ways and it isn’t until the end that it becomes clear the meaning of all of them. The monster tells Conor that that in return for his stories Conor must tell one as well. Meanwhile Conor is dealing with a bully at school, a father who has remarried and lives in America, a grandma he doesn’t get along with or like to stay with, and the pity of classmates and teachers at school. Plus, he won’t face the fact his Mom has a terminal illness.

This is a well-crafted story with suspense and actions from characters that are unpredictable and puzzling. It is a quick read with deep themes to explore such as death, grief, loss, bullies, murder, friendship, family relationships and more. It isn’t a scary book as the cover suggests. Just so you aren’t surprised, the first story the monster tells has a man and woman “coupling.” I think the author wanted to show the woman trusted the man. Also, Conor retaliates against the bully at school so violently that the bully ends up in the hospital. I’m not sure if kids will like this book. It’s targeted for a younger audience but the themes are much older. I wonder if it is a book that adults will gush about and kids will not because it deals with death and grief. It was on a Newbery list but I would recommend it for older readers.
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