Book Review: A Monster Calls

A Monster Calls includes illustrations by Jim Kay. Image courtesy of The Verge.A Monster Calls includes illustrations by Jim Kay. Image courtesy of The Verge.

Stories are wild creatures, the monster said. When you let them loose, who knows what havoc they might wreak.

Thirteen-year-old Conor O’Malley gets visited by a monster, but it is not the one from his dreams. This relieves him, because what happens in his dreams is even worse than the monster that starts appearing in his backyard every night. The monster tells different stories to Conor, and eventually expects Conor to tell his own, but Conor’s truth is more terrifying to him than the monster itself.

British writer Siobhan Dowd originally envisioned the concept of A Monster Calls during the course of her terminal illness. After Dowd’s death, her editor asked Patrick Ness to continue her work. As Ness stated in the author’s note, “She had the characters, a premise, and a beginning. What she didn’t have, unfortunately, was time.”

The book was illustrated by Jim Kay, who is also responsible for the artwork featured in the new Harry Potter Illustrated Editions, two of which have already been released and the third of which is being released later this year.

A Monster Calls has enjoyed great success both in the UK, where it was published, and internationally. The book has won the Carnegie Medal for excellence in children’s or young adult writing, as well as the Greenaway Medal for excellence in children’s book illustration, being the only book to have ever won both awards. Other awards it has won include the British Children’s Book of the Year, the Red House Children’s Book Award, and the Kitschies Red Tentacle award for speculative fiction.

The success this book has achieved is certainly well-earned. Though intended for children, this book deals with deep, emotional themes, and is a compelling read for any age. It is a haunting and touching book, with beautiful illustrations on every page. The art is in black and white, reflecting the dark and raw tone of the book, and contributing to a moving and engaging journey through Conor’s growing realizations of the truths in his life.

I read the book in one sitting; at 200 pages, it is already shorter than the average book length I’m used to, and the gripping plot drew me in and refused to let me go. Though it is such a short book, it leaves an impact. When Conor finally faced the truth, it was gut-wrenching. The book tugged on my heartstrings and I had to take a few moments to just sit still and ruminate on the book once I had finished it.

This book has also been adapted into a movie released in the United States in early 2017.

To find out more about Patrick Ness and his other works of literature, you can visit his website here.