Mini-Review: A Monster Calls

A Monster Calls

Written By: Patrick Ness / Inspired by: Siobhan Dowd

215 pages

Middle Grade/ YA Fiction

Publisher: Walker Books

First Published: 2011

A Monster Calls, a middle grade novel by Patrick Ness, was written to make you cry. I don’t care if you’re a preteen for whom the book was ostensibly written or a full-grown adult who was encouraged to read this book because I am highly persuasive. This novel is devastating, in the truest, most emotionally-wrenching sense of the word. And how could it not be? A Monster Calls took shape from the notes left behind by author Siobhan Dowd, who died before she could ever begin writing the actual story. It is, in fact, inspired by her own illness, as the main character, Conor, is dealing with his mother’s rapidly progressing cancer. It’s impossible to say how Dowd’s story would have gone, but Ness crafts an impressive, emotionally potent tale of his own based on a very simple premise: a 13-year-old boy, living alone with his cancer-stricken mother, begins to be visited at night by a towering monster who insists on telling him three stories. The plot itself, however, isn’t necessarily important; what matters is how Conor’s interactions with the monster and the people around him help him to come to terms with the more pressing horror of his everyday life. Ness understands grief in a way that very few of us do, although most of us have at some point experienced it. His story is a lump in your throat that doesn’t go away until long after the final page has been reached. Yet, for all that, it is a kind of salve, an exceptionally moving piece of writing that reminds us that grief and fear can only dominate our lives for so long. It is a tough read, but one that is indisputably rewarding.

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