A Monster Calls
Patrick Ness, inspired by an idea from Siobhan Dowd
Jim Kay, illustrator

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

That about sums it up, folks. I’m not sure how to describe this book, except to say it is NOT a book to simply hand willy nilly to the avid young reader in your life without first looking into it yourself. I’m not sure it’s a kid’s book (or that it’s an adult book).

**Spoiler Alert**
I can hardly write anymore about the book without divulging at least some of the plot. I’ll try not to give away the end. A young boy lives with his mother who is losing her battle with cancer. This fact has branded him at school and shaped his current identity (both in his own mind and in those of the people around him). He begins to have nightmares and a monster starts visiting him at precisely 12:07 every night. This monster is, apparently, real since there is always evidence of his visits left in the morning.

There was a point in this book at which I did not want to keep reading: I was convinced that Ness could not end the book satisfactorily for me. If the mother lived, I would feel cheated and that he’d wrapped up the ending too neatly. Life isn’t like that much of the time. On the other hand, how in the world could I handle her death? Conor would be left alone, and that was just too sad to contemplate. And what of this horrifying monster?

I’ll just say that the ending was perfect. Ness does an amazing job.

The illustrations seem to work for most folks, but I didn’t like them much. In retrospect (it’s been a few weeks since I read this book), I think they have helped “hold” the book in my mind more than I expected, but I found them somewhat distracting during the actual read.

Recommended for middle school and up.

*P.S. I’ve labeled this book “fantasy” because of the monster, but I actually think it’s better described as “realistic fiction.”

updated 1/18/12 to add notes/discussion

Things to Note/Discuss

  • Do you know anyone who is experiencing anything like Conor? (i.e. family member terminally ill, etc.)
  • Where is Conor finding hope (if any)? What would you tell Conor?
  • What do you think you would do if you were Conor’s friend at school? Have you had a friend who tried to shun you because of something going on in his/her life?
  • What is the REAL hope in this situation? (whether or not the book/author seems to share your opinion)