Book Reviews, Fantasy, Middle Grade, Young Adult

Book Review: A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness

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When my book club was throwing around book ideas for our October book of the month, A Monster Calls immediately came to mind.  I wanted something “Halloween-ish but not scary” and on the shorter side because October tends to be a busy month for most people.   A Monster Calls was definitely outside of most of the groups comfort zones, but it ended up being a big hit.

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amonstercallsAuthor:  Patrick Ness

Genre: Middle Grade/Young Adult • Fantasy

Version: Paperback (224 Pages)

Published: September 27th, 2011

Publisher: Walker Books

Source: Purchased

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Book Synopsis:

The monster showed up after midnight. As they do.

But it isn’t the monster Conor’s been expecting. He’s been expecting the one from his nightmare, the one he’s had nearly every night since his mother started her treatments, the one with the darkness and the wind and the screaming…

This monster is something different, though. Something ancient, something wild. And it wants the most dangerous thing of all from Conor.

It wants the truth.

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My Thoughts:

This review is going to be on the shorter side.  Not only was this a short read (I finished it in one sitting), but I think the best way to go into A Monster Calls is to go in blind without knowing any details about the plot beforehand.  When you look at the cover, and even the illustrations throughout the book, the first thing that probably comes to mind is that this is a horror novel, but in reality it is far from scary.  This book was surprisingly beautiful and heartbreaking at the same time.  This book was so much more than I was anticipating.

“You do not write your life with words…You write it with actions. What you think is not important. It is only important what you do.”

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Even though A Monster Calls is labeled as middle grade/young adult, don’t let that stop you.   The themes within this book definitely appeal to adults, particularly adults who can relate to what Conor is going through.  As far as the age range goes, I think this book is more suitable for middle graders who are a tad older and a little more mature than younger middle grade readers.  This isn’t because younger middle grade readers wouldn’t enjoy it, but that the overall themes in A Monster Calls are more of a sensitive nature.  Furthermore the overall message may go over their head.  If I had to put an age on it, I would say 11+.

 “There is not always a good guy. Nor is there always a bad one. Most people are somewhere in between.”

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This book touched me on a personal level.  I cannot exactly say how because that would be giving away details in the plot, but let’s just say that I went through a similar situation as Conor and went through some of the same internal struggles.  I really liked how A Monster Calls touched on a harsh truth that many people in this situation feel, but don’t like to admit to themselves.  The feelings of guilt over this is all to real.  For those of you who have read this, I am referring to Conor’s truth.

This book ended up being a wonderful book club selection.  The meeting where we discussed A Monster Calls was probably our most emotional discussion to date.  Like I mentioned, this book can be very relatable to adults, and many of our members had gone through a similar situation as Conor. It was wonderful to share our stories and support each other through the tears.  Don’t worry there was plenty of wine to drown our sorrows in.

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If you are going to pick this one up, the illustrated version is the way to go.   The illustrations are what really sets this book apart because not only do they compliment the story, but it enhances the reading experience.  Because this book is so short, I am not sure the book would have the same impact not paired with the stunning illustrations.  Take it from me, I’ve learned the hard way illustrations can drastically alter a reading experience.

If you are looking to pick up a quick read that will take you on an emotional roller coaster, then look no further!  I cannot wait to see the movie adaption that is set to open January 2017.  You can view the movie trailer here → A Monster Calls Trailer

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My Rating:

5-Star Rating System

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About the Author:

patricknessPatrick Ness, an award-winning novelist, has written for England’s Radio 4 and Sunday Telegraph and is a literary critic for The Guardian. He has written many books, including the Chaos Walking Trilogy, The Crash of Hennington, Topics About Which I Know Nothing, and A Monster Calls.

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 currently lives in London.

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37 thoughts on “Book Review: A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness”

  1. Fantastic review! I was going to ask you if you think it’s essential to the story to read the illustrated version, but you already answered that for me. 😉 And that’s good to know, because I mostly read e-books, and I’m assuming the e-book may not have the illustrations in it. Although I really do want to read the book, I still don’t know much about the plot, which sounds like that might be the best way to go. So thanks for the awesome review! I’ll know what to grab when I’m looking for a quick read!

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  2. Great review! I keep longingly looking at the illustrated version every time I walk into a bookshop, but I’ve held off so far because it’s quite pricey. But as the movie is coming out in January, and I’l have Christmas money soon, I’m very tempted! Patrick Ness and the actor who is playing Conor did a talk at YALC and the movie does sound brilliant, so I definitely want to pick up the book first.

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      1. Yes it is available, but the last time I looked at it in the shop it was like £12. I guess that’s not much for an illustrated book, I think I’m just comparing it to how much I would pay for a regular book and the price made my heart beat somewhat faster haha.

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  3. Great review, Amanda! I loved this book too, and can’t wait to see the movie. I really loved how Ness gave all the feelings explored in the book so much substance and truth.

    I really really want a copy of the illustrated version! But, it costs an arm and a leg. I’ll have to wait til it goes on special!

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  4. I love this review so much! I have been watching this for a while, and I admit I have hesitated due to the “middle grade” label I have stumbled upon. But those illustrations are gorgeous and you have convinced me that there is no reason for me not to read this 🙂

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      1. I find that often middle grade books written by authors who traditionally write adult or YA are still incredibly compelling. It’s like they just wanted to write featuring a younger character, and their publisher recommended using smaller words. For example, Coraline by Neil Gaiman is typically identified as middle grade. I loved it.

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      2. I find that often middle grade books written by authors who traditionally write adult or YA are still incredibly compelling. It’s like they just wanted to write featuring a younger character, and their publisher recommended using smaller words. For example, Coraline by Neil Gaiman is typically identified as middle grade. I loved it.

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    1. I think lots of adults shy away from it because of the middle grade tag and the fact that it looks like a horror novel, but don’t be fooled! I’ve really worked on trying new things this year and this one was such a great gamble that paid off!

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  5. It’s a really quite powerful book isn’t – especially for one so short.
    Great review – it’s difficult to hit the balance with some book reviews especially when you need to not spoil the impact and you’ve pulled it off really well.
    The illustrations are just so good – I can’t imagine reading this story without them to be honest.
    Lynn 😀

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  6. I really appreciate how considerate you are of spoilers for this review, Amanda. There are a few books I know like this. Any real understanding of the plot can hamper your enjoyment of the book as a whole!
    That said, I have read two Ness books so far, and I didn’t connect with either of them: I love the premise of both novels (The Knife of Never Letting Go and The Rest of Us Just Live Here), but I felt like both left me wanting. Have you read other Ness books? If so, would you still recommend I read this? Perhaps it is just best if I recommend it for book club, as that was so successful for you…

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    1. I have never read any other books by Patrick Ness unfortunately, so I can’t compare and contrast A Monster Calls with his other works. This book is more like a modern day fairytale that tackles a very emotional subject. You are introduced to the “emotional subject” right away in the book, so I had a pit in my stomach the entire time because you can make a pretty good guess as to how it is going to pan out. HOWEVER it isn’t exactly predictable. It is so hard to explain. My book club loved discussing it, and we are actually going to get together to go see the movie when it comes out 😊

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  7. I only watched the movie but I felt like they wanted me to cry all the time and I hate that feeling, like being manipulated XD I did like the part with the stories (how everything is not what it seems), but it was a bit melodramatic for me. Maybe the book is more subtle! I liked the kid’s grandma, such a complex character!!!

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    1. Ooooo excellent perspective! I did have a pit in my stomach the entire time I was reading this, but like I said this was very relatable. I also loved the monster’s parables ❤️ Ahhh Grandma. She gets a bad reputation, but I don’t necessarily think she deserves it.

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