A Monster Calls
From Library Staff
(Gr 7 & Up) "Conor O'Malley, 13, is having a difficult time. At school, he copes with bullying and loneliness. His father's [ absence], his mother's cancer, and the recurring nightmare that torments him every night. One night, he [hears] a voice calling his name. An ancient, treelike m... Read More »
From the critics
SummaryAdd a Summary
A monster calls is about a 13 year old boy named Conor O’Malley has a reoccurring nightmare about a specific monster he can’t get rid of. One night at seven minutes past twelve a monster paid him a visit. The monster wasn’t the one from the nightmare, this monster was the Yew tree from the cemetery across the street. At first Conor thought it was just a figure of his imagination but every time he “woke up” there was some evidence that the monster was real. One time he woke up and stepped in Yew leaves and another time he needed to cut out a sapling from the floorboards in his bedroom. The monster wants one thing from Conor and it wants the truth. The monster would tell Conor three stories for a fourth in return and that story was Conor’s worst nightmare. The way Patrick Ness describes the similarities between characters instead of their differences makes the reader realize that not all characters have to be different and that some characters may be closer than you realize. The technique is very effective especially in this book. Two physically different characters, such as a thirteen year old boy and a Yew tree that is also a monster, can be so close emotionally or mentally just by sharing some experiences and overcoming challenges together. A Monster Calls had both internal and external conflict throughout the story and a great balance of each conflict. At the beginning when the characters’ lives were separate there was more external conflict and in the end when the characters were closer bonded there was more internal conflict with the main characters. Having a connection with the characters can make a story more relatable. In some cases the characters need to be different to continue the story line but sometimes there needs to be the characters that have almost everything in common because they reflect their feelings off each other and this makes it easier to relate to how the characters are actually feeling. Overall I think that this story was beautifully written and I would recommend it to anyone.
Every night for months Conor's been having the same nightmare, where a monster takes his mother away from him, so when a monster actually shows up outside his window at 12:07 he isn't surprised. But it isn't the same monster. This monster is even worse, because it has come to force Conor to tell the truth -- about his mother's sickness, and about himself.
Heavily illustrated with dark, realistic sketches. Conor suffers with terrible nightmares of a monster, deals with bullies and isolation at school, and tries to believe his mum when she says her cancer treatments are working. Then the giant yew tree out in the yard becomes a monster who haunts Conor with daytime dreams, telling him 3 parables and requiring Conor to tell the 4th story - his own - himself.
Thirteen-year-old Conor O’Malley isn’t having an easy time. When he’s asleep, he has nightmares. When he’s at school, he’s bullied. And at home, he watches his mother grow weaker every day as her cancer and treatments vie for control of her body. His grandmother, whom he detests, is talking about him moving in with her, while his father keeps him at a safe distance from his new family. So when the giant yew tree in the graveyard behind Conor’s house twists itself into a monster and comes looking for him, it seems like just one more thing to deal with; until it demands from him the one thing too terrifying to face – the truth.
This is a dense, complex and multilayered book that constantly challenges the reader‘s intellect, morality and sense of reality. The monster, in classic fairy tale fashion, promises to visit Conor three times before returning to extract his due. Early on, the reader shares Conor’s confusion as he struggles to determine whether the monster’s visit was real or merely another dream. The author boldly strews ambiguity throughout the book like the yew needles scattered across Conor’s bedroom floor the morning after the first visitation. Each time the monster comes walking he tells Conor a story, ingenious tales with surprise endings and twists that defy prediction, giving the reader the sense of a rug pulled out from under them. The stories, deceptively simplistic, resemble Conor’s life, where nothing makes sense and nothing is fair. The reader’s understanding of the monster as internal or external, real or imagined, enemy or ally, changes dramatically as the story progresses. This is a book to ponder, to linger over, perhaps even to argue with.
Conor, his family and their circumstances are fully fleshed out and believable. Ness brilliantly succeeds at the task of having the reader fill in the spaces in the narrative with their own emotions rather than simply telling us what his character feels. Pain, panic, fury and guilt are explored in this story where the only ray of light is the love between a mother and her son that is about to be extinguished on one end. The amount of personal growth Conor achieves in a short space of time is staggering, moving through the stages of grief compounded by youthful dependence and the everyday cruelties of high school and broken families. When he gathers his courage at the end of the book, it is with a new, hard-won maturity that gives us hope for his future.
“A Monster Calls” is stunningly illustrated in black-and-white by Jim Kay, adding immensely to the tone of the book. The extensive decorations and pictures, some appearing as negatives with transposed colours, are surreal and nightmarish. Leaving this volume lying about the house would prove irresistible for a teen. In addition to its striking physical appearance the original storyline, powerful drama and conflict will appeal to readers, while many teens will identify with Conor’s struggles with bullying and his step-family, his fight for acceptance, and capacity for conflicting feelings. This book’s message that actions are more important than words or thoughts is both reassuring and a call to arms for readers of all ages.
The monster comes at 12:07. It would probably be easier for everyone, the monster included, if Conor were afraid of it, but he isn’t. Conor’s afraid of much worse things at the moment. His mom has cancer and this time the treatments don’t seem to be working as well as they have in the past. He’s plagued by a nightmare so awful he believes that no one else ever need know of it. Bullies at school pound him regularly, his grandmother is annoying, and his dad lives with a different family in America. The crazy thing is that Conor kind of wants to be punished, but the monster has a different purpose in mind. It’s going to tell him three stories and when it’s done Conor will tell him a fourth. A fourth that is the truth and also the last thing he’d ever want to say.
Night after night, Connor is woken by the same nightmare, “the one with the darkness and the wind and the screaming. The one with the hands slipping from his grasp, no matter who hard he tried to hold on.” It is one night, after waking from this nightmare, that the monster arrives, twisting to life from the yew tree in the graveyard. The monster comes to offer Connor a deal; it will tell Connor three stories, but then he must tell the monster a fourth story, and it must be the truth. However, Connor’s mum is very sick and the truth is the thing that he fears the worst.
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Kristen Merke thinks this title is suitable for 12 years and over
ELIZABETH RAMSEY BIRD thinks this title is suitable for 10 years and over
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