A Monster Calls is a work of literary fiction published in 2011 by Patrick Ness with (stunning) illustrations by Jim Kay. The story follows thirteen-year-old Conor who is struggling with the reality of his mother’s treatments and his grandmother’s cold-hearted exterior. When the yew tree in his backyard suddenly pays him a visit in the form of an old, wisened monster, reality becomes even more confusing. As the yew tree begins to tell him stories of the past, Conor’s understanding of life, what it is to be good, and the unknown nature of the future all begin to change…
Let me start by saying that I am definitely jumping on this bandwagon WAY late. Honestly, I had never heard of this book until I watched a vlogger talking about it on BookTube semi-recently. I finished the book pre-holidays but I haven’t had the time to sit down to write a full review for it until now.
And this book deserves a full review.
I will start by saying that the story + the art = AMAZING! A Monster Calls is designed to look like a children’s picture book (to an extent). The interaction of the illustrations – which are all in black and white, befitting the theme, and quite haunting – with the text evokes the same sort of feeling as reading a picture book; both nostalgic and educational (as in, it’s clear that the book is trying to teach a lesson). Okay, so that last one is not a feeling, but, yeah, you get it.
The story itself is beautiful, relatable, and heartbreaking. I do NOT cry easily, and I was ugly-crying at the end of this book – in the best way possible, I promise!
This is one book where I refuse to give any spoilers because I fully believe that everyone should read this book and experience it first-hand. Because of this, this post may be a tad short, but I just wanted to make the following points before signing off on this one:
- The way Patrick Ness handles darker, semi-uncomfortable or unsettling themes and topics not only seems to come from an authentic place, but are also incredibly relatable even if the reader hasn’t experienced these things first-hand.
- The illustrations. The illustrations. The illustrations. Listen, I will be the first to admit that I love creepy. But I love creepy even more when it blends so well literally and figuratively with the text of the novel. Symbolism = life. How many of you readers/writers out there agree?
- I mentioned this before, but nothing makes me cry. Well, very few things. This is actually the first time that I have ever cried due to reading a book. (And yes, this includes the seventh Harry Potter book). I know, I’m cold-hearted. It’s okay, at least I am self-aware.
- There are very few children’s books/YA books that deal with death, grief and the repercussions of both as eloquently as this book does.
- The only warning I would give about this book is this: if you have a younger child and might be interested in reading this book with them/wondering if they should read this book, just note that there is a pretty heavy amount of swearing in the book and some of the themes may be quite dark/unsettling for young readers. I also could see how the illustrations may make some kids uneasy; they are pretty spooky (but the spookiness blends so well!) This might be something you want to read first – trust me, it’s worth it.
Okay, that’s it! The ultimate summary: A Monster Calls is just really good.
Have you read it? Let me know what you think.
This books receives a UUS YOU MUST READ THIS! nomination. Because, really, you gotta read it!
Final Count: 5 stars