A Monster Calls

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by Tim Burdick on 02 April, 2016

A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness is about a tree monster who visits Conor O’Malley every night at 12:07am. In it's first visit, the creature warns that it will return three more times and tell him a story each night. On the fourth and final visit, the boy must tell his story or die.

Conor is a bullied teen with a sick mother. At school, his classmates and teachers treat him like a fragile shell which might crack at the slightest touch. At night, face to face with the monster, he is unafraid, not flinching or cringing. It is only the task of telling his true tale-- his nightmare which makes him panic. His lack of fear and the unknown nature of his story are key ingredients for this gripping novel.

Is it real? In the opening scenes, the boy questions his meeting with the monster on whether it is real or imaginary? But, the next morning he finds leaves covering his bedroom floor. This reminder shows that these late night encounters aren’t a figment of his imagination. As the story develops, the monster becomes an enigmatic trickster. What is it’s true purpose? It claims to have done horrible things. But, what will it do next to Conor and his mother?

A well crafted story reveals its secrets little by little. The novel’s overall structure appears simple at first. A monster meets a boy. But, this thing tells it's straightforward fairy tales with small hidden truths which the boy must accept before the emotional climax. The meanings of the monster’s tales change and twist the boy’s understanding of humanity.

Be warned. This well written story isn’t light hearted fun. It explores issues of family, friendship and loss. But, the finale is worth it if you make it to the last page.

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