Review: A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness and Siobhan Dowd

A beautifully written tale of loss and letting go, A Monster Calls is the story of Connor, a young boy with a terminally ill mother. Connor begins to have terrifying nightmares and so is unsurprised when a monster appears in one of his dreams in the form of a Yew tree. Because Connor is used to being so frightened he doesn’t find the Yew tree monster all that scary, so they begin to converse…except the next day, Connor isn’t so sure that it was a dream after all.

Beware – this novel is a real tear-jerker. I never cry at books but I cried at the ending to this one. It’s just so sad and touching, with beautiful imagery and really emotive characters. What makes it especially poignant is the introduction where you discover the book was only part written by Patrick Ness because the original author died before she finished writing it. I wonder if she had children and wrote it to help them to deal with the loss of their mother? If so, that’s just too sad for words – but what an incredibly brave thing to do, and what a gift to give them.

The characters in the book are fantastic. I thought it was really important that Connor is shown to have a “normal” life despite what he’s going through with his mum’s illness. This is also a book about friendship, bullying, divorce, loneliness and dealing with difficult relatives. It shows how love can take many forms and can be found where you least expect it. It deals with all of these issues in a very realistic way and (without giving away too much) it uses a fabulous allegorical scene to show that sometimes, you just have to let go of the people that you love in order to set them free.

The book itself is quite short so I was able to read it in a couple of installments. Despite having two authors, it doesn’t feel like two stories mashed together and flows coherently from beginning to end. It features a young main character and is written in simple English, so it would appeal to older children/teens and up. I think it would definitely help a child going through the loss of a loved one (or an adult for that matter) because key concepts about life, death and illness are explained using beautiful stories-within-the-story that are basic enough for everyone to understand.

I hope this book is used in schools and that many children suffering from grief find that it helps them to express their emotions. I think the film will be amazing too and will hopefully be able to touch even more lives.

Rating: 8.5/10

I read this book for the Popsugar Reading Challenge 2017 #37 Read a book that’s becoming a movie in 2017.