A Monster Calls

monster in the living room facing Conor Illustrations by Jim Kay set the mood perfectly.

Conor’s mother is dying of cancer. Everyday is a tinged with battles, looking after himself, facing the bullies at school, being his own parent, anxiously wishing his mum will get better. Then one night, a monster appears at his window and wants to tell him three stories. In return, he wants Conor to tell him the truth on the fourth night.

I loved this book so much I bought a copy for a friend who I know loves a slow reveal. If you’ve read other books by Patrick Ness, that’s great, I hear he has fans and detractors all over. This story was originally started / inspired by the late Siobhan Dowd and I believe is nothing like Patrick’s other work. Don’t discount this book because it’s by Ness, or because you don’t like sad books or because you feel you know the monster is a metaphor for cancer. It isn’t.

The monster is not a metaphor for cancer.

The stories the monster tells are not at all what they seem. Much like the monster himself, they are grey. As is true for much of life, right and wrong are not so easily defined. This, amongst something else are the lesson for Conor. This isn’t a spoiler, in so much as a hook. It’s a unique book, with an unusual style of storytelling.

Conor’s life in the literal shadow of his monster and endless grief is worth a read. It’s the perfect book to start conversations with young people about difficult situations life will throw their way. Estranged parents, pity from strangers, torment by bullies and learning to forgive our loved ones and ourselves. The illustrations by Jim Kay add just the right tinge of life to the words. There is a film adaptation that I’m looking (somewhat) forward to watching.

A Monster Calls will be one of those books I come back to often, yes for the tears but also for the hope and lessons.

Five stars*