A monster calls by

15 May 2011

Call no:
Rated :

Read for the Once Upon a Time V reading challenge, see what every one’s been reading on the review site

The monster showed up just after midnight. As they do.

Every night Conor O’Malley has the nightmare. Every night. But tonight something is different. Tonight there is a new monster. A new nightmare. And Conor isn’t sure if this is a dream or not. But either way, this is the monster he was fearing. This monster, the yew tree, tells him that it will tell him three stories. And then Conor will tell the monster a story. A true story. And if he doesn’t, then the monster will eat him alive.

Conor is isolated and bullied at school. He and his friend Lily have had a falling out. His father lives in the US and rarely visits. He has nightmares. And his mother is sick.She is undergoing cancer treatments, and tells Conor that she will get better, but deep down Conor knows that may not be the truth. And he resents his grandmother’s present in his life, interfering when his mother is unwell, tired, or in hospital.

a monster calls

A monster calls by Patrick Ness, illustrated by Jim Kay

This is a wonderfully told book. Incredibly sad. But incredibly beautiful as well. And the illustrations by Jim Kay are just perfect, and fit the story so well.

I really loved this book. The monster, the green man, or yew tree, however you see him, and the stories he tells are not at all what I expected, and yet are so well fitted, that after reading them there is no other story that would have worked.

I suppose in many ways the theme of this book is similar to the Chaos Walking series, in that it is all about the truth. Truths we hide from ourselves, and truths that other people hide from us. Sometimes to try and protect us. But without the truth, however terrible that may be, how can we figure out how to deal with anything. Along with this idea of the truth, is the one, that life isn’t fair, and it certainly isn’t simple. Another truth we learn while growing up.

The central plot, that of a child dealing with a parent’s illness, made me think of I kill giants,[1] even before I had read this one. And of course both feature monsters as well. But they are very different books. And both work in their own way. I can’t really compare them, apart from to say that if you liked one then I’d recommend picking up the other as well.

Edited to add:
This is a book you will want to own in hard copy. As much as I love my kindle, and think ereaders are fantastic, I think that the images just wouldn’t work so beautifully on a screen as they do on the page.

Other reviews: Things Mean a Lot ; Serenipity ; Jess hearts books ; Ooops… Wrong Cookie ; Stuff as dreams are made of


  1. my review

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8 Responses

  1. Caroline says:

    I'm so looking forward to this one. I got my hard copy on Friday. I love the illustrations and agree, I don't see how that would have worked in the kindle. It really sounds great. I read Nymeth's review and knew I'd like to read it.
    Caroline´s last blog post ..What did the Victorian Lady Look Like or Women- History and Make-up

    • Fence says:

      Hope you enjoy it Caroline.

      The pictures are wonderful. the book would still have been great without them, but they add so much to it.

  2. She says:

    I was so excited to see that Patrick Ness had another book out. I am also excited because from everything I've heard, it seems to be wonderful. Thank you for reminding me to put in an order for it. :)
    She´s last blog post ..Netflix! I’ve got it

    • Fence says:

      You're very welcome :)

      I must get around to reading his adult work, I know I downloaded a sample of Topics about which I know nothing for the kindle a while ago. Must get around to reading it now.

  3. Kathleen says:

    This reminded me of I Kill Giants too (at least the way you described it). I'm adding it to my list to read in the future. It sounds like a good one.

  4. Nymeth says:

    Love the thematic comparison to Chaos Walking. I hadn't thought of that, but good point.
    Nymeth´s last blog post ..Barter Books- or- Does this Place Really Exist

    • Fence says:

      Nymeth, one of the things that Ness mentioned at the signing was that he hated being a teenager and not being told the truth, or being taken seriously. Okay so you are young, have time to get over things, but that doesn't make whatever you are going through any less serious. So I possibly had that hint in mind when reading this :)