A Monster Calls (Patrick Ness)

Please take all the stars in the universe.

Let me just start this review by mentioning the author’s note. The author’s note was stunning. It set the tone for the magic that you could expect in the story you were about to read. I’m going to quote it.

‘I felt – and feel – as if I’ve been handed a baton, like a particularly fine writer has given me her story and said, “Go. Run with it. Make trouble.” So that’s what I tried to do. Along the way, I had only one single guideline: to write a book I think Siobhan would have liked. No other criteria could really matter. And now it’s time to hand the baton on to you. Stories don’t end with writers, however many started the race. Here’s what Siobhan and I came up with. So go. Run with it. Make trouble.’

This story is magic.

The synopsis: Connor has been having nightmares for a while now and his mother has been sick for a while too. But one night, things change. Connor gets a visitor who makes Connor face whatever it is he’s been trying to hide away in his nightmares.

It starts off normal. As normal as any contemporary book can start. A troubled kid with a secret and an ailing parent. And that just explodes into something else altogether that you don’t even know at which point exactly did the story explode. It’s such a beautiful, heartwrenching, brave story. Connor is actually such a refreshing character. I feel like I’ve known Connor all my life, but he is so new to me at the same time. I love the interactions he has with his mum, his grandma, his dad who’s always away, his bully, his only friend who lets out his secret, his monster visitor. Connor, despite all his faults, is so beautiful. He is a beautiful thing. He is a beautiful human with a beautiful, fragile, brave heart.

But here I am, once again, going through the one-star reviews on Goodreads because I want to ruin my life. We’ll get the obvious out of the way. The monster doesn’t exist, of course. I knew that going into the story. Some people find this aspect ridiculous. Did it affect my ability to enjoy the story? Not at all. Because Connor made him real. Connor’s interactions with this monster were enjoyable to read and so real. The monster was a projection of his fears, wants, wishes, hopes, prayers and my only worry was ‘will Connor need help for seeing things?’ But other than that, I really liked how the monster’s never made to feel like a fake thing, like a figment of imagination. He feels real, too real in fact, that he is actually quite fearsome. The monster is obviously there to make Connor face his one true fear. So, this is by large a story about lessons. I don’t like preachy stories, but this did not ready preachy to me. So no worries on that front. Actually, as an older reader, it just felt like watching this kid, that I’ve come to care about, learn and grow. I was rooting for him all the way, feeling his pain, wanting good things for him. I just wanted to hug and love him.

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I was amused by the names of Connor’s bully and friend though. Some ridiculous Harry Potter hate(?) that made me chuckle. But as the one-star reviews say, the bully seems like a character that’s just there because you need a bully. Well, okay this one I will kind of agree. I don’t really know why Connor’s bully is being a trash person. Wonder what the bully is going through. But I’m not going to let it affect my rating. I will gladly look past the bully that’s just bullying because he’s a bully because I like the aspect of what the bully means to Connor. I like how we learn more about Connor from his interactions with his bully.

Another critique was the acceptance of violence. Okay, this critique… bothers me a little. I see why this criticism is stated and I do agree to a more-than-certain-extent. But I’d like to think Connor’s destructiveness, a by-product of how he was handling his emotions – obviously not very well, I mean, he’s talking to a monster -, was not really accepted but merely understood. His grandma understood, his teachers understood. They did not think it was right, but they understood why he did what he did. But Connor couldn’t understand why he was doing the things he did. He couldn’t understand why everyone else understood. Or at least, he didn’t want to understand why everyone understood.

I don’t know. I liked the book. It broke me. I wasn’t expecting it to get as heavy as it did. I didn’t read the synopsis before reading this book. All I knew going in was just that some kid had a monster visitor and people on BookTube were raving about this book.

Maigawd. I cried as the book neared its end, as Connor faced his fears. This book is just beautiful. I picked it up and I could not put it down until I finished it. It took about a little over two hours.

I cannot recommend this enough.

And if, one day, you look back and you feel bad for being so angry that you couldn’t even speak to me, you have to know that it was okay. It was okay. That I knew. I know everything you need to tell me without you having to say it out loud.

I think what really got to me with this book was the way denial was portrayed. Denying your emotions, acting like they don’t exist, destroys you from the inside and I think that aspect really shone through in this book.

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