253. A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness

A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness. Inspired by an idea from Siobhan Dowd. Illustrations by Jim Kay. (Canada) - (US)

Pages: 206
Ages: 12+
Finished: Nov. 19, 2011
First Published: Sept. 15, 2011
Publisher: Candlewick Press
Genre: YA, magical realism, horror
Rating: 5/5

First sentence:

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

Acquired: Received a review copy from Candlewick Press.

Reason for Reading: I was simply drawn to the plot and the cover.

A 13-year-old boy is dealing with the terminal illness of his single mother.  He has nightmares almost every night, is a loner at school, is bullied by one boy in particular and one night begin the visitations of a monster at 12:07.  The story deals with the normal emotions of a child dealing with the imminent death of a parent: grief, anger, etc. and the mystical world of the nightmares and the monster symbolize things the boy can't verbalize or rationalize himself otherwise.

This is a dark story but with a redeeming ending.  Don't let the fact that it is an illustrated book fool you into thinking  the book is suitable for young children.  It is definitely a YA title, dealing with some tough emotions, dark situations, frightening scenes and emotionally draining.  I lost my mother to terminal illness at age 24 and the deathbed scene brought tears to my eyes.  A powerful, haunting and gut-wrenching story.

The book is profusely illustrated in a very dark manner.  With what appears to be black ink throughout, some illustrations are mostly dark texturized blackness with no focal image while others are quite outstanding haunting images featuring the monster.  On their own I'm not sure I would appreciate them but they are a perfect match for the story being told.  This is a book I wouldn't be surprised to see on award lists.


  1. I thought this book was very well-done. I am glad you enjoyed it, too!


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