What Are We Reading: A Monster Calls, by Patrick Ness

Posted on August 17, 2012 by in What Are We Reading?

This week, Lil Chase tells us about a book she can’t stop thinking about…

An illustration from A Monster Calls by artist Jim Kay

An illustration from A Monster Calls by artist Jim Kay

When a monster arrives at Connor’s bedroom window, it’s not the one he’d been expecting. It’s a monster formed from the yew tree from his garden. The monster says he has three stories to tell Connor and then Connor must tell his own story – the one about his nightmare, the one with an even more terrifying monster. Only then will the monsters leave him alone.

Connor’s mother has cancer and is undergoing treatment that makes her very sick. His father lives in America. He doesn’t get on with his grandmother. The bullies at school have targeted him. Connor is alone. But when the monster comes, strangely, he seems like a friend: one Connor can shout and rage at. One who will help him unleash his pent up emotions.

The stories the monster tells are good, but I prefer the every day accounts of Connor’s life and his discussions with the monster, the stories felt like a diversion to me.

The idea for A Monster Calls came from Siobhan Dowd, when she was dying from cancer. Patrick Ness wrote the novel for her. It’s the only book to win both the Carnegie and the Greenaway Medal – the two most prestigious awards in children’s literature. And now I have read it, I can see why.

The best thing about the book (aside from the incredible illustrations) is the writing style. There is no poetry, no flowery words, no emotion is overplayed. Not an easy task when you are dealing with the subjects of monsters, death and solitude.

If I had to describe A Monster Calls in one word, it would be: ‘devastating’. I cried when I was reading it on the train. I wept when I finished it at home. I haven’t stopped thinking about it since I put it down four days ago. Cancer is a horrific illness, and this book tells a very real account of it.


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