Thursday, August 16, 2012


If not for fear of sounding too subjective, I would describe A Monster Calls as a perfect book. Maybe there's the technical issue as well, that would define "perfect" as something very far from this short, somewhat simplistic book. But there is something here that touches the reader. This reader in particular.

There is a certain level on which I have to justify my reaction to A Monster Calls. As I neared the halfway mark of the book, I began to see clear parallels between main character Conor's situation and that of a good friend of mine. The moment this happened - the moment I went from simply empathizing with the characters and instead seeing them as real people I know in my real world - there was nothing left to do. A Monster Calls horrified me. It latched itself onto me. It dug a hole straight into my emotional core and left me shuddering. At the book's end, I found myself completely emotionally compromised.

Someone who saw me in this state - literally shaking with grief - commented half-joking that this is why he doesn't read books. But this is exactly why I read books. A Monster Calls may have deeply disturbed me, but it did so in an absolutely astonishing way. With simple language and a simple setting, Patrick Ness created a story that enraptured me for three straight hours. I could not set the book aside. I literally ached from reading it. It is literature at its finest - perfect.

And here's what I think sets A Monster Calls apart from the vast majority of sad kids books. Most sad stories are "heart-wrenching" because they're constructed to be that way. The author sets the stage to make you feel for the tragic heroes. A Monster Calls is something different. It's about more than death. It's about more than grief. It's about so, so much more that I am scared to divulge for fear of ruining the book's power. It's just something special.

Recommending a book as painful as A Monster Calls is not easy. How can I wish this upon anyone else? How can I tell any other reader to experience such sorrow?

I recommend it because it's essential. A Monster Calls is a perfect book. The writing style may be simple and childish, but this is powerful stuff. This a book that I've revisited every night since first reading it, trying to go back and pinpoint where I fell completely under its spell. Each time I reach the end, I am drained. The story does not lose its power upon reread. And I suspect that it never will.


  1. While I didn't have as strong a reaction to this book as you, and many other readers, did I was still really moved by it. There was just something about it that reaches deeply into you.

  2. I'm impressed that you still loved the book despite its being so personally emotionally wrenching. When a book takes me this way -- when I overidentify with what's happening in it -- I often stop reading it and never pick it back up. Even if it's good. :/

  3. I completely agree with you. It's not like most "sad" kids books at all. I had rivers of tears pouring down my face by the time I finished it, and, like you, have had a hard time recommending it. Such a phenomenal book.

  4. I'm really intrigued by this review. I'm going to buy this book.

  5. Wow, that is a powerful review. I'm not sure I want to pick up a book that's so devastating, but I definitely want to know more about it.

  6. The perfect book? Wow! I have a copy of this and love books that can move me to the core in this way. I look forward to trying it soon.


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