A black and white drawing of a giant monster creeping towards a farmhouse on a moonlit night.

About the Book

Title: A Monster Calls
Published: 2011

Cover Story: Showoff
BFF Charm: Heck Yes!
Talky Talk: Heartwrenchingly Straight UP
Bonus Factors: The Green Man, Illustrations
Relationship Status: Old Love Renewed

Cover Story: Showoff

Just look at this beaut! The gorgeous drawing sets the grim tone of the book, and the light and dark are well balanced. I love the clean, white text, too. It’s so simple, but strong and kinda scary, like the titles on a silent film. This is one to consciously display in public whenever you can.

The Deal:

Conor O’Malley woke from a recurring nightmare, hearing something call his name. It was the yew tree from the churchyard on the hill by his house, and it came because Conor asked it to. Conor’s mother has advanced cancer, rendering him invisible to his teachers; his father ran off to the United States to start a new family with a new wife who sells crystals and tarot cards; he’s bullied at school; and his grandmother is as much of a nightmare as the dream he won’t speak about. The monster — the Green Man — comes to help Conor by telling him stories, something a 13-year-old boy hardly thinks much of. The price is Conor’s own story.

BFF Charm: Heck Yes!

BFF Charm Heck Yes - sparklier and shinier than the original BFF Charm

Oh, Conor O’Malley, I don’t know whether to give you a BFF charm or an adoption certificate. Conor is so sweet and caring, and I ached whenever he tried to get someone, anyone, to see Conor, not just “the boy whose mum has cancer.” He’s such a good kid, and still such a 13-year-old boy, with all the confusion and anger and lost-ness that’s part of being 13, and I just wanted to wrap him up in a quilt and bring him cocoa and let him be.

Swoonworthy Scale: 0

This isn’t a book about romance, although it is a book about love. Conor’s ex-best friend Lily might be a candidate for first love, and she’s the only one who doesn’t treat Conor like a contagion, but he can’t forgive her for telling people about his mother’s cancer. The relationship between the two has potential for sweetness, but isn’t anywhere near enough the focus of the book to get even 1 swoon point.

Talky Talk: Heartwrenchingly Straight UP

It’s mother-effin’ Patrick Ness, y’all! What did you expect, a campfire singalong? It’s been said it’s easy to make people cry and hard to make them laugh; I’d like to add it’s even harder to make them really FEEL. In the introduction, Ness makes it clear he didn’t try to write the novel Siobhan Dowd would have written (she died in 2007), but tried to write a story she would love. He succeeds. The writing is all Ness — direct and clean — and he gives the insight into his characters (good and bad) I loved from the Chaos Walking trilogy.

And for a moment, the sun seemed to go behind the clouds. For a moment, all Conor could see was sudden thunderstorms on the way, could feel them ready to explode in teh sky and through his body and out of his fists. For a moment, he felt as if he could grab hold of the very air and twist it around Lily and rip her right in two–

“Conor?” Lily said, startled.

This isn’t the Chaos Walking trilogy, by the way, so don’t go into it expecting the same thing. You CAN expect to bond as tightly with Conor as with Todd, and you can expect to exhaust an entire box of tissues. You will feel Conor’s anger and grief and confusion and despair, and you will come out of it aglow with the power of stories, those “wild, wild animals”.

(P.S. If you haven’t read anything by Siobhan Dowd, please do right now!)

Bonus Factor: The Green Man

A literal green-colored man whose hair and facial hair are made out of leaves

Ever since reading Susan Cooper’s Dark is Rising series, I’ve loved the legends of the Greenwitch and the Green Man and all the wild, uncontrollable forces of the earth. The Green Man here is so full of power, he’s above good or evil. He helps when called, but only according to his wants.

You think I tell you stories to teach you lessons? the monster said. You think I have come walking out of time and earth itself to teach you a lesson in niceness?

Bonus Factor: Illustrations

B&W drawings from the book of a monster leaning down.

Hurrah! One of my FAVE bonus factors. Seriously, publishers, WHERE ARE THE PICTURES in books for grownups? Jim Kay’s illustrations are sinister and gloomy, and I can’t imagine the book without them.

Relationship Status: Old Love Renewed

When I first dated Patrick Ness’s books, it was an overwhelming emotional rollercoaster. I hated them and loved them and could not get enough; before I was ready, it was over and they were gone. I was so thrilled to find out another book was coming to town, and rushed in hoping to rekindle the old flame. At first, I was surprised and — I’ll admit it — a little disappointed because it wasn’t what I remembered. But I decided to adjust my expectations and see this book for something new, and discovered in essence, it was the same Ness novel I adored. I felt the same highs and lows, the same tenderness, the same heartbreak. It hadn’t changed, truly — it has just grown and explored new ground. This time around, we’ll be as in love as ever.

FTC Full Disclosure: I received my free review copy from Walker Books. I received neither money nor cocktails for writing this review (dammit!). A Monster Calls is available now.

Meghan is an erstwhile librarian in exile from Texas. She loves books, cooking and homey things like knitting and vintage cocktails. Although she’s around books all the time, she doesn’t get to read as much as she’d like.