Review: A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness

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Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ½
Date read: August 11 – 20, 2011
Read count: 2

This is one of those children’s books that adults tend to appreciate more than children, partly because the language is aimed at adults and mostly because adults tend to understand and recall pain and grief better than children. They’ve had more time to process their emotions and memories.

But that is not to say children wouldn’t like or be affected by this story. Connor is very relatable as a main character, though he’s a tad too self-aware and existential for his age. However, given the circumstances he’s living with, it makes sense for him to be withdrawn and thoughtful and agitated. This is precisely why I think this story is written for adults. Connor’s inner turmoil and frustration are self-contained, until that last bit when he acts out but then he pulls himself together again. Not many kids his age can rein in their anger like that. But adults would understand that feeling, the impulse to lash out and pulling back at the last second.

Connor is forced to grow up quickly, confront the reality of his mother’s illness, and face a future without her. All of these things speak more to an adult, who might have already been through them, more than a child, who might be experiencing them for the first time or never have had to face such a hard reality.

Oh, and the monster speaks in riddles, as mythical creatures often do, but the riddles are contemporary riddles that don’t leave you more confused than the story.

And another thing, the last chapter will get you and it will get you hard.

* * * * *

“I wish I had a hundred years,” she said, very quietly. “A hundred years I could give to you.”

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* * * * *

One of my favorite contemporary allegorical books of all time. Patrick Ness has created something truly lovely here and his prose is stark and deep and heartfelt, and I love everything about it. I still feel the effects of this book even now, several years later, just in passing.

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7 thoughts on “Review: A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness

  1. Freaky Folk Tales September 24, 2013 / 3:31 am

    Since the The Knife of Never Letting Go and its sequels, Patrick Ness has been a favourite author of my daughter….and now me, too! It’s lyrical; it’s powerful; it’s moving.
    I’m not going to go into detail; this is a book best read not knowing what to expect….

    By the way, love your site! Regards, Freaky Folk Tales

    Like

    • Mimi September 24, 2013 / 4:11 am

      Thanks. I love Ness’ writing for the reasons you mentioned above, and the Chaos Walking trilogy is on my short to-read list.

      Like

  2. Claire 'Word by Word' September 24, 2013 / 2:14 pm

    This was my first book by Patrick Ness but it sure won’t be the last, what a talent, just brilliant.

    Like

    • Mimi September 24, 2013 / 2:32 pm

      A great writer and notable name among YA authors, that’s for sure. Do you know what book of his you’ll read next?

      Like

      • Claire 'Word by Word' September 24, 2013 / 2:36 pm

        It was actually a review of The Crane Wife that got me interested and then I went to the library and saw A Monster Calls on the shelf, so brought that home. I live in France, so I also picked up the French copy for my daughter to read, English for me, French for her. In French it’s called Quelques Minutes Apres Minuit (A Few Minutes After Midnight). So yes, The Crane Wife next I think.

        Like

        • Mimi September 24, 2013 / 2:43 pm

          Great choice. I hear Ness’ adult fiction is very different from his YA fiction. It would be interesting to compare his writing styles.

          Like

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