Frightful Friday: A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness

September 30, 2011 8-12 years of age, Candlewick, Frightful Friday, Kid-Lit/Middle Grade, Paranormal Fiction, Review, Thriller, YA 5

Frightful Friday is a weekly meme in which I feature a particularly scary or chilling book that I’ve read that week. Feel free to grab the button & join in!


This week’s featured book is: A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness

  • Reading level: Young Adult
  • Hardcover:224 pages
  • Publisher:Candlewick (September 15, 2011)
  • ISBN-10: 0763655597
  • Source:  Personal copy

At 12:07 AM, thirteen-year-old Conor wakes up to find a monster outside his window. He’s not frightened, for this is not the monster he expected to see. He thought he’d open his eyes to see the monster from his nightmares, the one that has been haunting his dreams since his mother’s cancer treatments began.

The monster is an ancient one, existing for centuries. It wants something from Conor, it wants to tell him stories, in return to hear the truth from Conor. Conor, obviously, is perplexed by the monster’s requests. However, it continues to return nearly every night, at exactly 12:07 AM.

The stories the monster tells aren’t your average, typical stories. Of course, what would one expect from a monster? The stories the monsters tell are unique, each ultimately providing a valuable lesson. The monster attempts to impart to Conor the power of stories:

“Stories are wild creatures, the monster said. When you let them loose, who knows what havoc they might reveal?”

“Stories are important, the monster said. They can be more important than anything.  If they carry the truth.”


The illustrations, combined with the text, portray a truly haunting story. Not haunting as in ghosts (or yes, monsters), but haunting due to how real, how honest they are. Conor, despite himself, is afraid to admit the truth the monster seeks.  He’s a young boy, living with his mother after his parents divorce. To him, his mother is everything he knows. A lot of weight has been placed on his shoulders.  To make matters worse, he told his one true friend about his mother’s illness, and the news quickly spread throughout his school. His teachers now coddle him, refusing to punish him. The class bullies now have yet another reason to pick on him. It’s not suprising that Conor feels the way he does. Admitting the truth is oftentimes difficult than living a lie.

Reluctantly, Conor follows the monster on this journey through stories. When it’s up to him to tell the story, to tell the truth, it provides him with a sense of relief, not dread. He had a punishment pictured in his mind, a punishment so severe it was difficult for Conor to accept. While honesty is sometimes more difficult than lies, the truth is certainly freeing. Through the monster, Conor learned that it is an individuals actions that truly portrays the integrity of that individual.

I cannot begin to describe how this book affected me, emotionally.  Perhaps it’s because I have a son Conor’s age. Nothing could prepare me for the emotions I felt as I read this book.  I can admit it; I sobbed. No, I take that back, I bawled. Not the quiet kind of crying, but the gasping for air, shuddering chest, sort of bawling.  At first, I cursed Ness for toying with my emotions this way. However now I commend Ness for this; the story he portrays is honest, not flinching. No light & fluffy stories, but pure, brutal, honesty.  While it did break my heart, it touched and warmed my soul as well.  And while it is heartbreaking, it is a book that should be read by all, a lesson that should be passed on to others. A truly powerful gift. Perhaps the most rewarding part of this book, a testimony to its greatness, is how each and every individual will get something completely different out of it.

One may ask why I decided to feature this as part of Frightful Friday? Well, the illustrations, first off, are pretty haunting:


Perhaps, even moreso, I chose to feature this book because it continues to haunt me, days upon days after reading it.

I implore you: GO OUT AND BUY THIS BOOK.  This is not a book you borrow, or check out of the library. It is one you must own, you must savor, and must never forget. HIGHLY Recommended.


5 Responses to “Frightful Friday: A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness”

  1. Anita

    Wow Jenn! This is really something, I am thinking my son and I might read it together this month….we don’t do that much anymore! Thank you for such a riveting review.

  2. rhapsodyinbooks

    I loved this book too, even though I didn’t actually “get” all of it, like how the monster’s stories related to the one he wanted the boy to tell. But I need most jokes explained to me too, so I didn’t count it as the author’s fault!

  3. Trisha
    Twitter: Trish422

    I just finished this book today! Three hours ago to be exact. And I’m there with you. I choked back tears. I never cry during books but I really wanted to with this one. Unfortunately I was in the cafe at Barnes and Noble, and as such was trying really hard to keep it in. :)

  4. Pam (@iwriteinbooks)

    Wow, those are some seriously intense pictures. I’ve seena few other really good reviews of this. It’s not my usual thing but for this season, I’ll try it. :O)