A Monster Calls

A Monster Calls

Inspired by An Idea From Siobhan Dowd

eBook - 2011
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An unflinching, darkly funny, and deeply moving story of a boy, his seriously ill mother, and an unexpected monstrous visitor, featuring stunning artwork by Jim Kay. At seven minutes past midnight, thirteen-year-old Conor wakes to find a monster outside his bedroom window. But it isn't the monster Conor's been expecting- he's been expecting the one from his nightmare, the nightmare he's had nearly every night since his mother started her treatments. The monster in his backyard is different. It's ancient. And wild. And it wants something from Conor. Something terrible and dangerous. It wants the truth. From the final idea of award-winning author Siobhan Dowd- whose premature death from cancer prevented her from writing it herself- Patrick Ness has spun a haunting and darkly funny novel of mischief, loss, and monsters both real and imagined.
Publisher: 2011
ISBN: 9780763656331
Characteristics: 1 online resource
Additional Contributors: OverDrive, Inc

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From Library Staff

Thirteen-year-old Conor awakens one night to find a monster outside his bedroom window, but not the one from the recurring nightmare that began when his mother became ill--an ancient, wild creature that wants him to face truth and loss.

Thirteen-year-old Conor awakens one night to find a monster outside his bedroom window, but not the one from the recurring nightmare that began when his mother became ill--an ancient, wild creature that wants him to face truth and loss.

Thirteen-year-old Conor awakens one night to find a monster outside his bedroom window, but not the one from the recurring nightmare that began when his mother became ill--an ancient, wild creature that wants him to face truth and loss.

From the critics

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Jul 17, 2020

A beautiful story. I have never lost someone close to me but this book allowed me a glimpse into what depths grief and guilt take hold on a person when they do lose someone.

Jul 10, 2020

This book is well-written. I think it might scare some kids though. I found it a bit dark and hard to read at times because of that.

A book hasn’t made me cry like this in YEARS. It took me altogether too many hours of sobbing and hugging my dog before I could sleep after finishing this one.

Conor has a relatively happy life with his mum. His dad lives in America, and he doesn't get along with his grandma. But Conor's mum is sick; she's going through treatments and is weak and poorly all the time. Conor knows she'll get better - she has to - and when a monster comes walking in the middle of the night to see him, he knows that he's there to help her do just that. Or is he?

Books about grief are such a personal thing. In this case, I think Patrick Ness has captured that raw, unutterable pain so perfectly that no matter what a person is grieving, whether a death or a loss of any kind, they will find something of their pain reflected in these pages. As always, his writing is beautiful, the imagery stunning, and the illustrations only add to that. It's a harrowing journey, these 200 pages, and the bleak yet beautiful nature of both the words themselves and the images complementing them create an experience unlike anything I've ever read before.

I'm finding this hard to review, actually, just because I felt it so deeply. I think that's a case for a lot of people, and it's why this has become such a classic. It's a challenging read, but my god, it's so superbly done. It's cathartic and tragic and even healing as it shows how one boy deals with his unending grief and works on moving forward.

It's going to be in my heart forever.

Feb 24, 2020

This took my breath away. It's simply stunning what words on a page can do to you, and what a tunnel of thoughts you'll climb through before you see the light at the end. Ness is a powerful writer with amazing talent, weaving truths about the world tangled with dreams and hopes for a better future. Yet again he surprised me with such a raw but truthful book. Beautiful writing.

Aug 04, 2019

A Monster Calls is such a beautiful book and you really feel the pain that Conner is experiencing throughout the story. It is a book that faces reality and what so many people are facing right now. Overall, the book is so well written and is a must-read.

May 27, 2019

Suggestion: if you're going to read this book in public, think again and go home. I read this book in the Swiss Chalet at Lynden Park Mall and I wept over it. It wasn't a feminine sprinkling of a couple of tears, it was full-out ugly crying, with the red nose and the non-stop snot. I had waitresses and other customers checking to make sure I was okay.

Beautiful story. Beautiful writing. Utterly heartbreaking, and worth every box of kleenex I went through. Great for young adults and for grown ups as well.

Mar 14, 2019

Oh my goodness - such a beautiful book. I cried hysterically towards the end. it was so raw, so real, so compassionate. The life lessons and moral of the stories are so simple and true. I highly recommend everyone reads this book. You will not regret it.

sclibrary_nakaydin Feb 26, 2019

You know how it is going to end but still want to read it and maybe you hope the end will be different. Single mom with cancer and her 13-year-old son. He is such a lonely child and hoping to get help from a monster. Quick read. Check it out.

Jan 24, 2019

This book is contemporary with fantasy elements (you might call it magical realism, but more horror than charming), and centers around 13 year old Conor, but I wouldn't call it Young Adult. It's got a very human theme at the center, and it's not written for kids but for anyone who has undergone loss of a loved on and come to understand grief.

Herne is perfect, Conor is absolutely perfect and believable, the grandma is absolutely believable....Patrick Ness has a gift for character development, tight stories, and emotion. Apparently, Siobhan Dowd started this but died before finishing it, and I think Ness does a beautiful job of bringing the story to life with respect.

So, of course, I recommend it for anyone who has lost a loved one (especially if it was prolonged by illness or accident), or may be going through terminal illness themselves. It will make you cry, but it's a healing kind of cry. And absolutely worth it.

Jan 14, 2019

You *knew* how it was going to end. Really. But it still hits you. Pro tip...when you *know* how a book is going to end, don't read the ending in a classroom full of 7th graders. That being said, even though you know the ending, Ness does a fantastic job of surprising you along the way. Conor is a believable young teen boy, his despair and raw grief haunting you when you dare step away from the book. You're angry with him, embarrassed with him, and often times angry AT him. I was hoping I was wrong about the end, but I'm glad I wasn't. It would have been a cop-out and Conor deserves better.

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Oct 07, 2015

VV12 thinks this title is suitable for 10 years and over

May 30, 2015

sienna_volpe thinks this title is suitable for 9 years and over

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May 11, 2013

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Jul 24, 2012

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Apr 28, 2012

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ELIZABETH RAMSEY BIRD thinks this title is suitable for 10 years and over

zackids Jul 19, 2011

zackids thinks this title is suitable for 14 years and over


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SeWi00404 May 05, 2015

A Monster Calls, by Patrick Ness, is about a boy named Conor O'Malley, who so far, has had a pretty bad life in general. His mom has cancer, his dad left them for another woman, he gets bullied at school, and has a reoccurring nightmare. On top of all this, Conor is also being visited by a monster, who is actually a yew tree in the cemetery across the street. The monster says it is going to tell Conor three stories over a period of time, and after all of the stories have been told, Conor will tell him a fourth. The same thing that has been invading his dreams ever since his mom started her treatments. The Nightmare. In this book, Ness defines what teenagers lives are like. Scary, emotional, angry, angst ridden, and ominous. With captivating pictures on almost every page, Ness tells it like it is. I give this book four out of five stars, and recommend it to people who are having a rough life.

Jan 24, 2014

A monster calls is about a 13 year old boy named Conor O’Malley has a reoccurring nightmare about a specific monster he can’t get rid of. One night at seven minutes past twelve a monster paid him a visit. The monster wasn’t the one from the nightmare, this monster was the Yew tree from the cemetery across the street. At first Conor thought it was just a figure of his imagination but every time he “woke up” there was some evidence that the monster was real. One time he woke up and stepped in Yew leaves and another time he needed to cut out a sapling from the floorboards in his bedroom. The monster wants one thing from Conor and it wants the truth. The monster would tell Conor three stories for a fourth in return and that story was Conor’s worst nightmare. The way Patrick Ness describes the similarities between characters instead of their differences makes the reader realize that not all characters have to be different and that some characters may be closer than you realize. The technique is very effective especially in this book. Two physically different characters, such as a thirteen year old boy and a Yew tree that is also a monster, can be so close emotionally or mentally just by sharing some experiences and overcoming challenges together. A Monster Calls had both internal and external conflict throughout the story and a great balance of each conflict. At the beginning when the characters’ lives were separate there was more external conflict and in the end when the characters were closer bonded there was more internal conflict with the main characters. Having a connection with the characters can make a story more relatable. In some cases the characters need to be different to continue the story line but sometimes there needs to be the characters that have almost everything in common because they reflect their feelings off each other and this makes it easier to relate to how the characters are actually feeling. Overall I think that this story was beautifully written and I would recommend it to anyone.

Oct 23, 2012

Heavily illustrated with dark, realistic sketches. Conor suffers with terrible nightmares of a monster, deals with bullies and isolation at school, and tries to believe his mum when she says her cancer treatments are working. Then the giant yew tree out in the yard becomes a monster who haunts Conor with daytime dreams, telling him 3 parables and requiring Conor to tell the 4th story - his own - himself.

Mar 24, 2012

Thirteen-year-old Conor O’Malley isn’t having an easy time. When he’s asleep, he has nightmares. When he’s at school, he’s bullied. And at home, he watches his mother grow weaker every day as her cancer and treatments vie for control of her body. His grandmother, whom he detests, is talking about him moving in with her, while his father keeps him at a safe distance from his new family. So when the giant yew tree in the graveyard behind Conor’s house twists itself into a monster and comes looking for him, it seems like just one more thing to deal with; until it demands from him the one thing too terrifying to face – the truth.

This is a dense, complex and multilayered book that constantly challenges the reader‘s intellect, morality and sense of reality. The monster, in classic fairy tale fashion, promises to visit Conor three times before returning to extract his due. Early on, the reader shares Conor’s confusion as he struggles to determine whether the monster’s visit was real or merely another dream. The author boldly strews ambiguity throughout the book like the yew needles scattered across Conor’s bedroom floor the morning after the first visitation. Each time the monster comes walking he tells Conor a story, ingenious tales with surprise endings and twists that defy prediction, giving the reader the sense of a rug pulled out from under them. The stories, deceptively simplistic, resemble Conor’s life, where nothing makes sense and nothing is fair. The reader’s understanding of the monster as internal or external, real or imagined, enemy or ally, changes dramatically as the story progresses. This is a book to ponder, to linger over, perhaps even to argue with.

Conor, his family and their circumstances are fully fleshed out and believable. Ness brilliantly succeeds at the task of having the reader fill in the spaces in the narrative with their own emotions rather than simply telling us what his character feels. Pain, panic, fury and guilt are explored in this story where the only ray of light is the love between a mother and her son that is about to be extinguished on one end. The amount of personal growth Conor achieves in a short space of time is staggering, moving through the stages of grief compounded by youthful dependence and the everyday cruelties of high school and broken families. When he gathers his courage at the end of the book, it is with a new, hard-won maturity that gives us hope for his future.

“A Monster Calls” is stunningly illustrated in black-and-white by Jim Kay, adding immensely to the tone of the book. The extensive decorations and pictures, some appearing as negatives with transposed colours, are surreal and nightmarish. Leaving this volume lying about the house would prove irresistible for a teen. In addition to its striking physical appearance the original storyline, powerful drama and conflict will appeal to readers, while many teens will identify with Conor’s struggles with bullying and his step-family, his fight for acceptance, and capacity for conflicting feelings. This book’s message that actions are more important than words or thoughts is both reassuring and a call to arms for readers of all ages.


The monster comes at 12:07. It would probably be easier for everyone, the monster included, if Conor were afraid of it, but he isn’t. Conor’s afraid of much worse things at the moment. His mom has cancer and this time the treatments don’t seem to be working as well as they have in the past. He’s plagued by a nightmare so awful he believes that no one else ever need know of it. Bullies at school pound him regularly, his grandmother is annoying, and his dad lives with a different family in America. The crazy thing is that Conor kind of wants to be punished, but the monster has a different purpose in mind. It’s going to tell him three stories and when it’s done Conor will tell him a fourth. A fourth that is the truth and also the last thing he’d ever want to say.

zackids Jul 19, 2011

Night after night, Connor is woken by the same nightmare, “the one with the darkness and the wind and the screaming. The one with the hands slipping from his grasp, no matter who hard he tried to hold on.” It is one night, after waking from this nightmare, that the monster arrives, twisting to life from the yew tree in the graveyard. The monster comes to offer Connor a deal; it will tell Connor three stories, but then he must tell the monster a fourth story, and it must be the truth. However, Connor’s mum is very sick and the truth is the thing that he fears the worst.


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Jan 03, 2018

You do not write your life with words, the monster said. You write it with actions. What you think is not important. It is only important what you do.


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