A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness

monster callsThis is not a book I would like.

It’s one of those children’s books that really appeal more to adult readers.

It’s a message book.  The plot is set up to drive home a message in the way adults sometimes think children’s books need to have messages.

It’s a the kind of book that’s meant to be good for children facing certain problems, as though reading about what your going through will somehow make it better.  Because misery loves company, I guess.

It’s darn close to outright preachy at times, too.

But it all worked.

I loved it.

I was disturbed by the horror elements in the book which are more atmospheric creepiness than jump-out-of-the-shadows scary.  I was touched by the characters and their relationships.  I even found the book’s message kind of moving.

And, all right,  I cried.  There, I admit it.  Happy?

The main character, Conor, is a classic lonely boy.   He’s picked on at school where he has only one friend whom he is ambivalent about.  She’s just as low on the totem pole as he is.  Conor lives with his mother who is undergoing cancer treatment now in its final stages.  On top of all this, he’s having a recurring dream, a nightmare every night at 12:07.

At age 13, Conor is too old to believe in monsters, but as the book opens a monster calls to him.  The monster, a giant tree like creature, has come to tell Conor three stories, one per night. On the fourth night, Conor will tell the monster his story and it will be the truth, his truth.

The stories are dark, scary in an unsettling way.  I was thoroughly creeped out by the end of the book, even though I could not tell just what the monster meant for Conor to learn from each of the three stories.   A Monster Calls may be modeled on Dickens’ A Christmas Carol but the lessons of the monster’s stories are no where near as easy to decipher as the ghosts of Christmas are.  All of this to get Conor to finally face the truth about his mother.

In the end, Conor’s truth is as troubling as it is common.  If you’ve been there, you’ll know.

But I don’t think you have to have been there to be moved by A Monster Calls.  The book works as a message book, but it also satisfies purely as story.  It’s a touching tale, a scary tale, too, but one based on very human feelings.

Even though I read it after writing my long list, A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness is very likely going to end up on my final list of favorite reads for 2015.

I think it’s terrific.



One thought on “A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness

  1. Ooooh! You make me wish I had this book on hand to read right now. I really enjoyed Patrick Ness’s Chaos Walking Trilogy–although “enjoyed” might not be the right word to use. I am glad you liked this one, James, even despite your reservations.

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