Summary and book reviews of A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness

A Monster Calls

Inspired by an idea from Siobhan Dowd

By Siobhan Dowd, Patrick Ness

A Monster Calls
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  • Hardcover: Sep 2011,
    224 pages.
    Paperback: Mar 2013,
    224 pages.

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Book Reviewed by:
Stacey Brownlie

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About this Book

Book Summary

An unflinching, darkly funny, and deeply moving story of a boy, his seriously ill mother, and an unexpected monstrous visitor.

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. (Ages 12+)

Chapter 1
A Monster Calls

The monster showed up just after midnight. As they do.

Conor was awake when it came.

He'd had a nightmare. Well, not a nightmare. The nightmare.

The one he'd been having a lot lately. The one with the darkness and the wind and the screaming. The one with the hands slipping from his grasp, no matter how hard he tried to hold on.

The one that always ended with -

"Go away," Conor whispered into the darkness of his bedroom, trying to push the nightmare back, not let it follow him into the world of waking. "Go away now."

He glanced over at the clock his mum had put on his bedside table. 12:07. Seven minutes past midnight. Which was late for a school night, late for a Sunday, certainly.

He'd told no one about the nightmare. Not his mum, obviously, but no one else either, not his dad in their fortnightly (or so) phone call, definitely not his grandma, and no one at school. Absolutely not.

What happened in the nightmare was something no one ...

Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!
  1. "You're a good boy," Conor's mother tells him. "I wish you didn't have to be quite so good" (page 17). What does she mean by that? Why does Conor have to be so good?


  2. How does the monster describe itself to Conor? Where does the monster come from? What does it want? Do you think that the monster is real, or is it a product of Conor's imagination? What does Conor think?


  3. Lily was once Conor's closest friend, but now he can't forgive her. Why? Is he right to feel betrayed? How do most people behave around Conor once they learn about his mother's illness? What would you have done in Lily's situation?


  4. "Stories are wild creatures," the monster says. "When you let them loose, who knows what havoc they might wreak?" (page...
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Reviews

BookBrowse

Patrick Ness's expansion and completion of Siobhan Dowd's story concept, in conjunction with Jim Kay's gorgeous illustrations, unite to form one of the best novels I have read this year. The book is further proof that the young adult market is enticing some of today's most talented writers. Yes, A Monster Calls is a narrative filled with magic, but the meaning behind that magic extends way beyond a traditional fantasy narrative.   (Reviewed by Stacey Brownlie).

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Media Reviews
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Ness twists out a resolution that is revelatory in its obviousness, beautiful in its execution, and fearless in its honesty. Kays artwork keeps the pace, gnawing at the edges of the pages with thundercloud shadows and keeping the monster just barely, terribly seeable.

Kirkus Reviews

Starred Review. A poignant tribute to the life and talent of Siobhan Dowd and an astonishing exploration of fear.

Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. It is a story that not only does honor to her memory, it tackles the toughest of subjects by refusing to flinch, meeting the ugly truth about life head-on with compassion, bravery, and insight.

Author Blurb Meg Rosoff
Patrick Ness has turned his exceptional talent to the subject of loss... This is storytelling as it should be (and almost never is) - harrowing, lyrical, and transcendent.

Author Blurb Philip Pullman
Powerful and impressive. The story behind the book is fascinating and moving too, the idea coming to life in the safe hands of Patrick Ness - a vivid example of how stories live on.

Reader Reviews
Diane S.

A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness
What an absolutely incredible and heartfelt book. Connor and his monster are unforgettable. Highly recommend. Although this is classified as YA, all ages will find this book and Connor endearing.

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The Short Life of Siobhan Dowd

The seed for A Monster Calls came from Siobhan Dowd (pronounced sh-vawn), a gifted writer who earned critical and popular success for her young adult fiction and received much praise for her work speaking out against censorship. She brought authors into underprivileged schools, made literature accessible to children around the globe, and led numerous community projects.

Siobhan Dowd Her first novel, A Swift Pure Cry (2006), was shortlisted for the Guardian Fiction Prize and the BookTrust Teenage Prize, and her subsequent novels - The London Eye Mystery (2007), Bog Child (2008), and Solace of the Road (2009) - have earned her dozens of awards.

Dowd spent much of her career working for both the English and American branches of PEN ("poets/...

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