A Monster Calls

by Patrick Ness (inspired by Siobhan Dowd)

illustrated by Jim Kay

published 2011

download (1)So I am going to do something that I rarely do – start, finish, and review a book all in the same day.  This is something that only happens when I read a book that hits me so deep and so hard that I am more or less compelled to write about it.

Except when a book strikes me like that, I am at somewhat of a loss as to what to say….

It is not unheard of for me to rate a book five stars…  I have many books I love.  Many of my five stars are old friends, books I have read since I was a girl, and have read over and over again.  They are books that I love not because they are flawless, but despite their flaws.  But every now and then I read a book that is pure magic.  Every word is exactly the right one.  Those books tangle up in your heart strings and pull on something deep in your soul with the same kind of aching beauty that strikes you when you watch the perfect sunrise.

A Monster Calls is a book about grief, sorrow, and tragedy.  But is also a book about truth, hope, and survival.  The stark drawings embrace the words, forming a seamless story that flows through both the illustrations and the print.

book6 I will freely admit that it is possible that part of the reason that this book hit me so hard was that I was reading it while sitting in a hospital room next to a bed in which someone I love is quietly dying of cancer.  I had no idea what A Monster Calls was really about; it had been on my TBR since I read a review on Reading, Writing, and Riesling’s site quite some time ago, far too long ago for me to actually remember what the review said!  I’m not usually a huge one for sad books, but I have zero regrets about this one.

That said, I will also freely admit that I didn’t just tear up while reading this book – I out and out cried.  And it was a book that I found myself really struggling to decide what to quote, because every page struck me with something new and profound and beautiful.

Stories are the wildest things of all…  stories chase and bite and hunt.  


The justifications of men who kill should always be heard with skepticism.

If you speak the truth, you will be able to face whatever comes.


This is a book of stark beauty, of hard reality.  This is a book that talks about the difficulty of truly struggling with grief and loss, especially the grief and loss that happens before death has happened…  that yearning for normalcy in a life that will never truly be normal again, the bitterly difficult emotional balance between believing death will never come and recognizing that it is, in fact, inevitable.

In conclusion, simply this: read this book.  It is the kind of magic that does not happen every day.