A Monster Calls
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A Monster Calls

4.5 119
by Patrick Ness
     
 

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

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

Overview

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

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.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
In his introduction to this profoundly moving, expertly crafted tale of unaccountable loss, Ness explains how he developed the story from a set of notes left by Siobhan Dowd, who died in 2007 before she had completed a first draft. "I felt—and feel—as if I've been handed a baton, like a particularly fine writer has given me her story and said, ‘Go. Run with it. Make trouble.'" What Ness has produced is a singular masterpiece, exceptionally well-served by Kay's atmospheric and ominous illustrations. Conor O'Malley is 13. His mother is being treated for cancer; his father, Liam, has remarried and lives in America; and Conor is left in the care of a grandmother who cares more for her antique wall clock than her grandson. This grim existence is compounded by bullies at school who make fun of his mother's baldness, and an actual nightmare that wakes Conor, screaming, on a recurring basis. Then comes the monster—part human, part arboreal—a hulking yew tree that walks to his window just after midnight and tells three inscrutable parables, each of which disappoints Conor because the good guy is continually wronged. "Many things that are true feel like a cheat," the monster explains. In return for the monster's stories, Conor must tell his own, and the monster demands it be true, forcing Conor, a good boy, a dutiful son, to face up to his feelings: rage and, worse still, fear. If one point of writing is to leave something that transcends human existence, Ness has pulled a fast one on the Grim Reaper, finishing the story death kept Dowd from giving us. It is a story that not only does honor to her memory, it tackles the toughest of subjects by refusing to flinch, meeting the ugly truth about life head-on with compassion, bravery, and insight. Ages 12–up. (Sept.)
ALAN Review - Barbara A. Ward
Nightmares assail 13-year-old Conor each night. Frightened about losing his mother to cancer, Conor confronts a different type of monster who takes on the form of the yew tree near his bedroom window. The monster tells him three different stories, each revealing the problem with making assumptions, and then demands that Conor tell his own story. While Conor is facing down the monster, he must also deal with school bullies, a grandmother who is completely unlike his mother, and his own demons. When his teachers or classmates offer sympathy for his plight, Conor shuns them, insisting that his mother will be perfectly all right. As the disease ravages his mother, she lets him know that she has known his secret all along. This moving story about loss and the strength that comes from owning up to unpleasant truths is accompanied by haunting artwork that provides complementary texture to the tale. Reviewer: Barbara A. Ward
VOYA - Laurie Vaughan
Thirteen-year-old Conor is living a nightmare. His mother is dying of cancer and neither she nor he can deal with the reality of her impending absence. Conor's father, remarried and living abroad with a new wife and baby, does not have the bandwidth to handle his son's anger. To his dismay, Conor's grandmother comes to stay for the latest round of disabling treatments. Grandma, rigid in normal circumstances, attempts to hold her own grief in check by implementing strict control over Conor. If that is not enough, Conor has become a target of bullying at school where his denial and suffering combine to drive help away. Nightly, Conor finds himself haunted by a dark and frightening monster—the incarnation of a huge yew tree from the graveyard just beyond his backyard. Defiant and skeptical, Conor struggles to make sense of the monster's visits and the three tales he shares—a process which ultimately shows Conor a path through his even darker and more frightening daily reality. Ness's novella is the brainchild of Irish young adult author Siobhan Dowd, who became a victim of cancer herself in 2007. If a bit slow to get moving, the story's tone serves to put the reader squarely in Conor's shoes. Conor is not a particularly sympathetic protagonist. He is stubborn and selfish. In the end, however, the story works on many levels. Death is not fair and it does not arrive conveniently, and it is messy and confusing, ultimately leaving its victims feeling powerless. Jim Kay's stunning illustration is a perfect complement to the text and it is quite likely what will draw readers' initial interest. In the same way that Ness captures Conor's frustration with words, one can almost feel the angry scribbling in Kay's textured use of darkness and light. This is the perfect book to put in the hands of teens unsure how to approach a grieving friend. Reviewer: Laurie Vaughan
School Library Journal
Gr 7 Up—Conor O'Malley, 13, is having a difficult time. At school, he copes with bullying and loneliness. His father is living in America with his new family, and at home he has to contend with a recurring nightmare that torments him every night. His mother is seriously ill and undergoing painful cancer treatments. One night, he wakes up to a voice calling his name. An ancient, treelike monster, hovering over him like a sleeping giant, has come to tell him three stories. When the monster is done, he wishes for Conor to tell him a fourth tale, wanting the scariest thing of all-the truth. The wise monster's ambiguous tales contain unexpected outcomes and help demonstrate that not all stories have happy endings, but they can be more important than anything else if they carry the truth. Conor has to accept the truth about his mother's prognosis and letting go, even if it means losing her. Only then can he start to heal, without destroying himself in the process. This is an extraordinarily moving story inspired by an idea from author Siobhan Dowd before she passed away. Kay's shadowy illustrations slither along the borders of the pages and intermingle with text to help set its dark, mysterious mood, while Conor is often seen as a silhouette. A brilliantly executed, powerful tale.—Krista Welz, North Bergen Public Library, NJ
From the Publisher
There's no denying it: this is one profoundly sad story. But it's also wise, darkly funny and brave, told in spare sentences, punctuated with fantastic images and stirring silences. Past his sorrow, fright and rage, Conor ultimately lands in a place - an imperfect one, of course - where healing can begin. A MONSTER CALLS is a gift from a generous story­teller and a potent piece of art.
—The New York Times

A nuanced tale that draws on elements of classic horror stories to delve into the terrifying terrain of loss. . . . Ness brilliantly captures Conor's horrifying emotional ride as his mother's inevitable death approaches. In an ideal pairing of text and illustration, the novel is liberally laced with Kay's evocatively textured pen-and-ink artwork, which surrounds the text, softly caressing it in quiet moments and in others rushing toward the viewer with a nightmarish intensity.A poignant tribute to the life and talent of Siobhan Dowd and an astonishing exploration of fear.
—Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

Profoundly moving, expertly crafted tale... a singular masterpiece, exceptionally well-served by Kay's atmospheric and ominous illustrations... tackles the toughest of subjects by refusing to flinch, meeting the ugly truth about life head-on with compassion, bravery, and insight.
—Publishers Weekly (starred review)

A brilliantly executed, powerful tale.
—School Library Journal (starred review)

Ness twists out a resolution that is revelatory in its obviousness, beautiful in its execution, and fearless in its honesty. Kays artwork keeps the pace, gnawing at the edges of the pages with thundercloud shadows and keeping the monster just barely, terribly seeable.
—Booklist (starred review)

A masterpiece about life and loss that will stay with the reader long after the final page is turned.
—Library Media Connection (starred review)

Children's Literature - Shirley Nelson
Thirteen year old Conor has a difficult life. His mother's treatments are not helping her cancer, he is bullied at school, and, most of all, he is haunted by a nightmare which he must never speak of. Then one night at 12:07 a.m., a monster arrives in the form of a giant yew tree. Conor thinks it is a dream, but in the morning, he finds yew berries and leaves on his bedroom floor. Even after his grandmother arrives to help and needs his room, the monster continues to visit at the same time in other parts of the house. The monster tells Conor stories, but demands that Conor tell his story and tell the complete truth. His mother must return to the hospital and Conor must stay with his grandmother. He takes his anger and frustration out on her furniture, but the destruction seems to bring them closer. Readers will share Conor's anger, fear, and feelings of betrayal as they read this sad, but inspiring novel and, with Conor, ultimately face his fear. In a note, Ness tells the reader that he wrote this novel in response to an idea posed by the late author Siobhan Dowd. Surely, she would be pleased at the result. Reviewer: Shirley Nelson

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780763655594
Publisher:
Candlewick Press
Publication date:
09/15/2011
Pages:
224
Sales rank:
35,950
Product dimensions:
6.50(w) x 8.30(h) x 0.40(d)
Lexile:
730L (what's this?)
Age Range:
14 - 17 Years

What People are saying about this

From the Publisher
There's no denying it: this is one profoundly sad story. But it's also wise, darkly funny and brave, told in spare sentences, punctuated with fantastic images and stirring silences. Past his sorrow, fright and rage, Conor ultimately lands in a place - an imperfect one, of course - where healing can begin. A MONSTER CALLS is a gift from a generous story­teller and a potent piece of art.
—The New York Times

A nuanced tale that draws on elements of classic horror stories to delve into the terrifying terrain of loss. . . . Ness brilliantly captures Conor's horrifying emotional ride as his mother's inevitable death approaches. In an ideal pairing of text and illustration, the novel is liberally laced with Kay's evocatively textured pen-and-ink artwork, which surrounds the text, softly caressing it in quiet moments and in others rushing toward the viewer with a nightmarish intensity.A poignant tribute to the life and talent of Siobhan Dowd and an astonishing exploration of fear.
—Kirkus Reviews

Profoundly moving, expertly crafted tale... a singular masterpiece, exceptionally well-served by Kay's atmospheric and ominous illustrations... tackles the toughest of subjects by refusing to flinch, meeting the ugly truth about life head-on with compassion, bravery, and insight.
—Publishers Weekly

A brilliantly executed, powerful tale.
—School Library Journal

Ness twists out a resolution that is revelatory in its obviousness, beautiful in its execution, and fearless in its honesty. Kays artwork keeps the pace, gnawing at the edges of the pages with thundercloud shadows and keeping the monster just barely, terribly seeable.
—Booklist

A masterpiece about life and loss that will stay with the reader long after the final page is turned.
—Library Media Connection

Meet the Author

Patrick Ness is the author of the critically acclaimed and best-selling Chaos Walking trilogy. He has won numerous awards, including the Guardian Children’s Fiction Prize, the Booktrust Teenage Prize, and the Costa Children’s Book Award. Born in Virginia, he lives in London.

Siobhan Dowd spent twenty years as a human rights campaigner for PEN and Amnesty International before her first novel, A SWIFT PURE CRY, was published in 2006. She won the Carnegie Medal posthumously in 2009 after her death at the age of forty-seven.

Jim Kay studied illustration and worked in the archives of the Tate Gallery and the Kew Royal Botanic Gardens, two experiences that heavily influence his work. His images for A MONSTER CALLS use everything from beetles to breadboards to create interesting marks and textures. Jim Kay lives in Edinburgh, Scotland.

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A Monster Calls: Inspired by an Idea from Siobhan Dowd 4.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 119 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I bought this book mainly because I loved Patrick Ness' other books. I was a little surprised after finishing it and realized it had really touched me in a very real way. Mind you, I am in my forties and like young adult novels because they are easy reads. "Monster" is an easy read, but so thought provoking and emotional it felt like it was much more. My ten year old daughter is reading it now and thouroughly enjoying it as well. Highly recomended.
PlumPudding More than 1 year ago
Wow. I don't think any book has made me cry this hard (well, except for his Chaos Walking trilogy, that is). This book is poignant and beautiful. And REAL. Cancer has been in my life, and so this book struck a (really sad and deep) chord with me. Ness can really work his words, too. He has become my favorite author, hands down. This book is a masterpiece.
Bibliophile_TE More than 1 year ago
Don't dismiss this book because it is a Teen novel. It is a powerful story of love and grieving that grabs you and won't let you go.
AnnaNanner More than 1 year ago
An evocative story for all ages! Grade: A+ or 5 solid stars This is a young adult novel with a simple enough beginning and an incredibly powerful ending! I'm almost at a loss for words. This is a story about a thirteen year old boy named Conor O'Malley. He's experiencing anger, anxiety, hope, and pain as his mother battles cancer. Bullies at school are tormenting him. His friends and teachers act as if he is invisible. Conor's father has moved on to a new family and provides limited support. His grandmother is abrasive and seemingly insensitive. This poor kid's life is falling apart! Conor O'Malley's voice is strong throughout the book. I felt his every emotion. The author pulled me through this book, never making anything too obvious. Conor's revelation at the end is heart-wrenching. There are two monsters in this story, the one from his secret nightmare and the one who comes calling. I'm not sure why some readers have this listed as horror. The monsters are merely expressions of Conor's fear and anger. Nothing scary! I believe the intent of A Monster Calls is to share the emotions surrounding dying and death from the perspective of a child. Patrick Ness accomplishes this endeavor gracefully. Even though I knew what was coming this story packed quite a wallop. This is a wonderful book suitable for young adults and older readers. Please be sure to have a box of tissues handy. You will need them!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book is the most amazing influential book I have read in a long while. Patrick Ness has an uncanny ability to reach his readers through his simple yet powerful words. Loved it.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Here is a book of the monsters we carry inside as we try to face the tragedies that life gives us.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I absolutely loved this book! The story was so beautifully written, I want to read it again!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book is called "A Monster Calls" and is written by Patrick Ness. In the book, a young boy, named Conor, is visited every night at 12:07 for four nights by a monster from his nightmares. The second, third, and fourth night, the monster tells him stories about his life, in exchange for the truth from Conor. My favorite part in the book is when the monster breaks a hole in Conor's house, but when Conor wakes up, there are leaves covering every inch of his floor. I rated this book five stars, because it's a very intriguing book and grabs you right from the start.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
At some point in your life, you will read this book. Even if you don't like the genre, you will like this book. I don't get emotinally inbest into books, but this was my exception. I cryed at the ending if this book. I didn't bawl my eyes out, but I had a,some tears. This book made me reavalueate my love for my a family, and for all the people in my life.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Brought me to tears. Reminded me of the pain I felt when my mother passed. Great read.
alondra-stgo More than 1 year ago
This story is one of the most relating ones I've read so far. Even though the main character is a young teenage boy, and his peculiar situation is not one everybody's been trough, it has many values and aspects that everybody goes through at some point in their life. It's beautifully written and Patrcik Ness has a magical way of expressing himself. It's a quick read, just over 200 pages long, and in all it's a very good book. If you're looking for a coming-to-age book, please give this one a try.
TheBumbleGirl1 More than 1 year ago
This book. There will never be enough words. My heart aches. So much.  This is a book that you will have to read for yourself.  I cannot tell you what it is about. I will do no justice in trying to summarize Conor's story.  Nor the Monster's story.  I do not trust my words. I will fail. You will feel things. Many emotions. You will need something to wipe your tears away...  And when you are done reading, you may need someone close by to hug. To hold you. As a mother of three boys, this is one of my biggest nightmares. I don't know if this book would have affected me so severely had I read it before having children...  There are a handful of books that have touched me. That I carry within my heart. There is only one other book that I cannot speak about; one that I instantly cry over every time I think about it... this book has now joined that one. But this book... will probably be the only one, that will forever live inside my soul. Mr. Patrick Ness... thank you.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
A book about 4 tales which have no moral at all and 3 of them told by a tree, one by Connor a book that gives me courage to face my fears
crayolakym More than 1 year ago
After looking at the cover and reading the back cover, I started reading this book still not coming remotely close to knowing what this book was actually about. This book is not only well written, but filled with a plethora of drawings throughout the book that add a deeper sense of where the story is headed. Conor shook his head. “That’s a terrible story. And a cheat.” Conor’s mom is very ill, his father walked out on them, and his grandma, who treats him poorly, is trying to force him to move in with her. Conor is constantly being bullied at school, has nightmares at night, and life just flat out sucks for this thirteen-year-old boy. That is until the massive tree in the backyard comes alive and is demanding the truth from Conor. Exactly what the truth is that the tree seeks is a mystery to Conor though. As Conor’s mom falls sicker, he becomes angrier and his life spirals into chaos. This book is about the burden of responsibility, grief, anger, and pain and the toppling loneliness that is associated with these burdens. Conor’s story will grab your heartstrings and  make you appreciate all that you have. I would recommend this book, but make sure you thoroughly enjoy the artwork alongside the story.*This book was provided in exchange for an honest review*         *You can view the original review at Musing with Crayolakym and  San Francisco & Sacramento City Book Review
acorley84 More than 1 year ago
First, I must start off by saying that I don't know that there has ever been a book that I have had such a hard time deciding what my rating would be, on top of what my review would be.  If there is a book for a person to connect with, this is the book. This is the closest to truth that I think I have found in my reading, other than reading a biography. I feel that as children, we all have dreams and possibly even reoccurring nightmares. We all also deal with "monsters" within our lifetime and this book does a wonderful job of depicting how a person may really feel while dealing with the monsters of their lives.  This book wasn't exactly what I thought it was going to be which is what made me give it an initial 3 stars upon completing it, however, upon thinking the premise and the story through, I have to say that I would give it at least a 4 star review. I was so happy to see that Siobhan Dowd had such a wonderful thought, and that Patrick Ness was able to pick it up after her death and finish it as though I feel she would have, could she have been given more time on earth to do so. I think the idea of this book was brilliant and one-of-a-kind. The story was very emotional which gave you a great insight into the characters. Everyone knows that life is really like a roller coaster and this book allows us to ride the roller coaster of Connor and his mother's life. The only thing that kept me from giving this book 5 stars was that it was more intended for a younger audience. Overall, it was a very easy (but emotional) read! I enjoyed being able to experience this book. I couldn't wait to get my hands on it from the moment it was recommended to me, and I am certainly glad that I finally got to be a part of it.
_Love_to_Read_ More than 1 year ago
If you get teary eyed easily you may not want to read but this book was very good. The graphics are amazing and the plot itself was suspenceful without being able to not guess the ending. If you want a short read or if you need this for school (i needed it for my college english class) this is your book.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I loved this book and still do its painful to read at times but I loved it just the same because of just how amazing the story is. It is a deep piece that caused me to stop and tjink about the way I live my life. Also it is a great story not very happy maybe but still for those of you who have read because of Winn Dixie its melancholy just like the candy
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I am a girl( i know the name gives it away) and i have read millions of sad books, books that make every one cry when they read it, and i dont cry. Just because im a girl doesnt mean i have cry at every thing. It is hard to make a book to make me cry and that is what this book did. One of the best books. Also try the knife of never letting go by this author. Whoever wrote im your boggest fan.
sailaway7289 More than 1 year ago
Great book
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is an excellent book and should be read by one and all. I bought the book because of MR. Ness and knew nothing about the story ahead of time. I truly think that is how it should be read so I will give NOTHING away about the book, except that, you won't be dissappointed..
KateUnger 15 days ago
In A Monster Calls, Conor unwittingly calls a monster to his aid, but he doesn’t really understand why. His mother is dying of cancer, and he thinks perhaps the monster is there to save her. Instead, the monster tells him three tales, meant to illustrate his purpose. Conor doesn’t understand, and I admit that I didn’t quite understand either until it was explained at the end. This story is about grief and fear. It’s heavy but wonderful. Conor is wrestling with emotions we all have faced or will have to face one day. The monster helps him deal with his secret truth – which I was unable to guess. I flew through this short book needing to know what Conor was hiding. Jim Kay has illustrated the hardcover version, and the images are dark and perfectly match the tone of this story. Patrick Ness wrote this story from an idea by Siobhan Dowd, who died before she could finish her version of the book. I had never heard of Siobhan, but as Ness recommended, I am now going to seek out her work. The movie version of this story comes out in December, and I was anxious to read the book first. I am curious to see how they do with it. Based on the preview, it seems like it will be pretty well done. http://opinionatedbooklover.com/review-monster-calls-patrick-ness/
Anonymous 5 months ago
A monster calls is being made into a movie! Look at the teaser trailer!
Anonymous 5 months ago
We all have our monsters...we just have to learn to let go. This is book that will speak to you, no matter your age! And that is the truth.
Anonymous 5 months ago
The meaning behind this book was written beautifully. I felt like I too need to "speak the truth."
Anonymous 11 months ago
I would highly recommend.