A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness 

Pages: 200

Genre: young adult, horror

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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.

My thoughts

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

What struck me first was how well Patrick Ness had written Conor, considering he’s a child. A lot of authors seem to forget they’re people too and capable of understanding, so I was glad this wasn’t the case here. The kids are different from each other, but also have intentions behind their actions. Here a kid is even a bully with intent, not just because “he doesn’t know better”, something the teachers agree with:

A bully with charisma and top marks is still a bully.” … “He’ll probably be Prime Minister one day. God help us all.”

But this is not a story about bullying, it’s one about the harshness of reality, about feelings, grief and admitting the truth to yourself. And it’s a lot darker than it first seem, the monster is not some fluffy Pixar’s Monster Inc. version. I really liked the monster and the stories it told, it directs the whole story. The book is also about how it is for a kid to have to grow up all at once, preparing for his own meals and going to school when other things have become far more important. Some might call him “independent”, but he doesn’t admit to his situation, showing how he’s still a child acting on his fear, not sense of responsibility.

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To be said, this is a nice story for kids to learn to deal with grief or others to remember how good it is to not be a kid anymore. Conor acts out and want someone to reprimand him so it will shake him back to the feeling of normal. The loss of control is what’s most relatable, that frustration when the world just won’t seem to listen. Still, this book isn’t ground-breaking in the way some people claim. It’s a good idea, a heartfelt story that I shed one single tear over and okay writing, but I won’t claim to understand all of the hundred quotes in different nuances the monster told about stories.

For example; “Stories are important, the monster said. They can be more important than anything. If they carry the truth.” or: “Stories are the wildest things of all, the monster rumbled. Stories chase and bite and hunt.” I have four more similar quotes, what is the difference between them? To sound mysterious? Did nothing but annoy me, unfortunately. I honestly wondered if I was rereading past pages.

 

– final thoughts –

It reminds me of a Neil Gaiman story, but it feels like it’s trying too hard to make everything grander or more symbolic than it’s delivered. The ending wrapped everything up with a bow so perfect that it didn’t match the tone of the rest of the story, so I don’t really know what to believe. Read it if you are curious, but if not… I don’t think you’re really missing out.

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