A Monster Calls

A Monster Calls


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An unflinching, darkly funny, and deeply moving story of a boy, his seriously ill mother, and an unexpected monstrous visitor.

At seven minutes past midnight, thirteen-year-old Conor wakes to find a monster outside his bedroom window. But it isn't the monster Conor's been expecting-- he's been expecting the one from his nightmare, the nightmare he's had nearly every night since his mother started her treatments. The monster in his backyard is different. It's ancient. And wild. And it wants something from Conor. Something terrible and dangerous. It wants the truth. From the final idea of award-winning author Siobhan Dowd-- whose premature death from cancer prevented her from writing it herself-- Patrick Ness has spun a haunting and darkly funny novel of mischief, loss, and monsters both real and imagined.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780763660659
Publisher: Candlewick Press
Publication date: 03/12/2013
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 224
Sales rank: 5,686
Product dimensions: 6.30(w) x 8.10(h) x 0.60(d)
Lexile: 730L (what's this?)
Age Range: 14 - 17 Years

About the Author

Patrick Ness is the author of the critically acclaimed and best-selling Chaos Walking trilogy. He has won numerous awards, including the Guardian Children's Fiction Prize, the Booktrust Teenage Prize, and the Costa Children's Book Award. Born in Virginia, he lives in London.

Siobhan Dowd spent twenty years as a human rights campaigner for PEN and Amnesty International before her first novel, A SWIFT PURE CRY, was published in 2006. She won the Carnegie Medal posthumously in 2009 after her death at the age of forty-seven.

Jim Kay studied illustration and worked in the archives of the Tate Gallery and the Kew Royal Botanic Gardens, two experiences that heavily influence his work. His images for A MONSTER CALLS use everything from beetles to breadboards to create interesting marks and textures. Jim Kay lives in Edinburgh, Scotland.

Read an Excerpt

A Monster Calls

By Patrick Ness

Candlewick Press

Copyright © 2011 Patrick Ness
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-0-7636-5559-4



The monster showed up just after midnight. As they do

Conor was awake when it came.

He'd had a nightmare. Well, not a nightmare. The nightmare. The one he'd been having a lot lately. The one with the darkness and the wind and the screaming. The one with the hands slipping from his grasp, no matter how hard he tried to hold on. The one that always ended with –

"Go away," Conor whispered into the darkness of his bedroom, trying to push the nightmare back, not let it follow him into the world of waking. "Go away now."

He glanced over at the clock his mum had put on his bedside table. 12:07. Seven minutes past midnight. Which was late for a school night, late for a Sunday, certainly.

He'd told no one about the nightmare. Not his mum, obviously, but no one else either, not his dad in their fortnightly (or so) phone call, definitely not his grandma, and no one at school. Absolutely not.

What happened in the nightmare was something no one else ever needed to know.

Conor blinked groggily at his room, then he frowned. There was something he was missing. He sat up in his bed, waking a bit more. The nightmare was slipping from him, but there was something he couldn't put his finger on, something different, something –

He listened, straining against the silence, but all he could hear was the quiet house around him, the occasional tick from the empty downstairs or a rustle of bedding from his mum's room next door.


And then something. Something he realized was the thing that had woken him.

Someone was calling his name.


He felt a rush of panic, his guts twisting. Had it followed him?

Had it somehow stepped out of the nightmare and –?

"Don't be stupid," he told himself. "You're too old for monsters."

And he was. He'd turned thirteen just last month. Monsters were for babies. Monsters were for bedwetters. Monsters were for –


There it was again. Conor swallowed. It had been an unusually warm October, and his window was still open. Maybe the curtains shushing each other in the small breeze could have sounded like –


All right, it wasn't the wind. It was definitely a voice, but not one he recognized. It wasn't his mother's, that was for sure. It wasn't a woman's voice at all, and he wondered for a crazy moment if his dad had somehow made a surprise trip from America and arrived too late to phone and Conor.

No. Not his dad. This voice had a quality to it, a monstrous quality, wild and untamed.

Then he heard a heavy creak of wood outside, as if something gigantic was stepping across a timber floor.

He didn't want to go and look. But at the same time, a part of him wanted to look more than anything.

Wide awake now, he pushed back the covers, got out of bed, and went over to the window. In the pale half-light of the moon, he could clearly see the church tower up on the small hill behind his house, the one with the train tracks curving beside it, two hard steel lines glowing dully in the night. The moon shone, too, on the graveyard attached to the church, filled with tombstones you could hardly read anymore.

Conor could also see the great yew tree that rose from the center of the graveyard, a tree so ancient it almost seemed to be made of the same stone as the church. He only knew it was a yew because his mother had told him, first when he was little to make sure he didn't eat the berries, which were poisonous, and again this past year, when she'd started staring out of their kitchen window with a funny look on her face and saying, "That's a yew tree, you know."

And then he heard his name again.


Like it was being whispered in both his ears.

"What?" Conor said, his heart thumping, suddenly impatient for whatever was going to happen.

A cloud moved in front of the moon, covering the whole landscape in darkness, and a whoosh of wind rushed down the hill and into his room, billowing the curtains. He heard the creaking and cracking of wood again, groaning like a living thing, like the hungry stomach of the world growling for a meal.

Then the cloud passed, and the moon shone again.

On the yew tree.

Which now stood firmly in the middle of his backyard.

And here was the monster.

As Conor watched, the uppermost branches of the tree gathered themselves into a great and terrible face, shimmering into a mouth and nose and even eyes, peering back at him. Other branches twisted around one another, always creaking, always groaning, until they formed two long arms and a second leg to set down beside the main trunk. The rest of the tree gathered itself into a spine and then a torso, the thin, needle-like leaves weaving together to make a green, furry skin that moved and breathed as if there were muscles and lungs underneath.

Already taller than Conor's window, the monster grew wider as it brought itself together, filling out to a powerful shape, one that looked somehow strong, somehow mighty. It stared at Conor the whole time, and he could hear the loud, windy breathing from its mouth. It set its giant hands on either side of his window, lowering its head until its huge eyes filled the frame, holding Conor with its glare. Conor's house gave a little moan under its weight.

And then the monster spoke.

Conor O'Malley, it said, a huge gust of warm, compost-smelling breath rushing through Conor's window, blowing his hair back. Its voice rumbled low and loud, with a vibration so deep Conor could feel it in his chest.

I have come to get you, Conor O'Malley, the monster said, pushing against the house, shaking the pictures off Conor's wall, sending books and electronic gadgets and an old stuffed toy rhino tumbling to the floor.

A monster, Conor thought. A real, honestto-goodness monster. In real, waking life. Not in a dream, but here, at his window.

Come to get him.

But Conor didn't run.

In fact, he found he wasn't even frightened.

All he could feel, all he had felt since the monster revealed itself, was a growing disappointment.

Because this wasn't the monster he was expecting.

"So come and get me then," he said.

A strange quiet fell.

What did you say? the monster asked.

Conor crossed his arms. "I said, come and get me then."

The monster paused for a moment, and then with a roar it pounded two fists against the house. Conor's ceiling buckled under the blows, and huge cracks appeared in the walls. Wind filled the room, the air thundering with the monster's angry bellows.

"Shout all you want," Conor shrugged, barely raising his voice. 1 ve seen worse.

The monster roared even louder and smashed an arm through Conor's window, shattering glass and wood and brick. A huge, twisted, branch-wound hand grabbed Conor around the middle and lifted him off the floor. 1t swung him out of his room and into the night, high above his backyard, holding him up against the circle of the moon, its fingers clenching so hard against Conor's ribs he could barely breathe. Conor could see raggedy teeth made of hard, knotted wood in the monster's open mouth, and he felt warm breath rushing up toward him.

Then the monster paused again.

You really aren't afraid, are you?

"No," Conor said. "Not of you, anyway."

The monster narrowed its eyes.

You will be, it said. Before the end.

And the last thing Conor remembered was the monster's mouth roaring open to eat him alive.


Excerpted from A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness. Copyright © 2011 Patrick Ness. Excerpted by permission of Candlewick Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

What People are Saying About This

From the Publisher

There's no denying it: this is one profoundly sad story. But it's also wise, darkly funny and brave, told in spare sentences, punctuated with fantastic images and stirring silences. Past his sorrow, fright and rage, Conor ultimately lands in a place - an imperfect one, of course - where healing can begin. A MONSTER CALLS is a gift from a generous story­teller and a potent piece of art.
—The New York Times

A nuanced tale that draws on elements of classic horror stories to delve into the terrifying terrain of loss. . . . Ness brilliantly captures Conor's horrifying emotional ride as his mother's inevitable death approaches. In an ideal pairing of text and illustration, the novel is liberally laced with Kay's evocatively textured pen-and-ink artwork, which surrounds the text, softly caressing it in quiet moments and in others rushing toward the viewer with a nightmarish intensity.A poignant tribute to the life and talent of Siobhan Dowd and an astonishing exploration of fear.
—Kirkus Reviews

Profoundly moving, expertly crafted tale... a singular masterpiece, exceptionally well-served by Kay's atmospheric and ominous illustrations... tackles the toughest of subjects by refusing to flinch, meeting the ugly truth about life head-on with compassion, bravery, and insight.
—Publishers Weekly

A brilliantly executed, powerful tale.
—School Library Journal

Ness twists out a resolution that is revelatory in its obviousness, beautiful in its execution, and fearless in its honesty. Kays artwork keeps the pace, gnawing at the edges of the pages with thundercloud shadows and keeping the monster just barely, terribly seeable.

A masterpiece about life and loss that will stay with the reader long after the final page is turned.
—Library Media Connection

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

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A Monster Calls: Inspired by an Idea from Siobhan Dowd 4.6 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 194 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I bought this book mainly because I loved Patrick Ness' other books. I was a little surprised after finishing it and realized it had really touched me in a very real way. Mind you, I am in my forties and like young adult novels because they are easy reads. "Monster" is an easy read, but so thought provoking and emotional it felt like it was much more. My ten year old daughter is reading it now and thouroughly enjoying it as well. Highly recomended.
PlumPudding More than 1 year ago
Wow. I don't think any book has made me cry this hard (well, except for his Chaos Walking trilogy, that is). This book is poignant and beautiful. And REAL. Cancer has been in my life, and so this book struck a (really sad and deep) chord with me. Ness can really work his words, too. He has become my favorite author, hands down. This book is a masterpiece.
Bibliophile_TE More than 1 year ago
Don't dismiss this book because it is a Teen novel. It is a powerful story of love and grieving that grabs you and won't let you go.
AnnaNanner More than 1 year ago
An evocative story for all ages! Grade: A+ or 5 solid stars This is a young adult novel with a simple enough beginning and an incredibly powerful ending! I'm almost at a loss for words. This is a story about a thirteen year old boy named Conor O'Malley. He's experiencing anger, anxiety, hope, and pain as his mother battles cancer. Bullies at school are tormenting him. His friends and teachers act as if he is invisible. Conor's father has moved on to a new family and provides limited support. His grandmother is abrasive and seemingly insensitive. This poor kid's life is falling apart! Conor O'Malley's voice is strong throughout the book. I felt his every emotion. The author pulled me through this book, never making anything too obvious. Conor's revelation at the end is heart-wrenching. There are two monsters in this story, the one from his secret nightmare and the one who comes calling. I'm not sure why some readers have this listed as horror. The monsters are merely expressions of Conor's fear and anger. Nothing scary! I believe the intent of A Monster Calls is to share the emotions surrounding dying and death from the perspective of a child. Patrick Ness accomplishes this endeavor gracefully. Even though I knew what was coming this story packed quite a wallop. This is a wonderful book suitable for young adults and older readers. Please be sure to have a box of tissues handy. You will need them!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
A book about 4 tales which have no moral at all and 3 of them told by a tree, one by Connor a book that gives me courage to face my fears
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book is the most amazing influential book I have read in a long while. Patrick Ness has an uncanny ability to reach his readers through his simple yet powerful words. Loved it.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Here is a book of the monsters we carry inside as we try to face the tragedies that life gives us.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I absolutely loved this book! The story was so beautifully written, I want to read it again!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book is called "A Monster Calls" and is written by Patrick Ness. In the book, a young boy, named Conor, is visited every night at 12:07 for four nights by a monster from his nightmares. The second, third, and fourth night, the monster tells him stories about his life, in exchange for the truth from Conor. My favorite part in the book is when the monster breaks a hole in Conor's house, but when Conor wakes up, there are leaves covering every inch of his floor. I rated this book five stars, because it's a very intriguing book and grabs you right from the start.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
At some point in your life, you will read this book. Even if you don't like the genre, you will like this book. I don't get emotinally inbest into books, but this was my exception. I cryed at the ending if this book. I didn't bawl my eyes out, but I had a,some tears. This book made me reavalueate my love for my a family, and for all the people in my life.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Brought me to tears. Reminded me of the pain I felt when my mother passed. Great read.
alondra-stgo More than 1 year ago
This story is one of the most relating ones I've read so far. Even though the main character is a young teenage boy, and his peculiar situation is not one everybody's been trough, it has many values and aspects that everybody goes through at some point in their life. It's beautifully written and Patrcik Ness has a magical way of expressing himself. It's a quick read, just over 200 pages long, and in all it's a very good book. If you're looking for a coming-to-age book, please give this one a try.
TheBumbleGirl1 More than 1 year ago
This book. There will never be enough words. My heart aches. So much.  This is a book that you will have to read for yourself.  I cannot tell you what it is about. I will do no justice in trying to summarize Conor's story.  Nor the Monster's story.  I do not trust my words. I will fail. You will feel things. Many emotions. You will need something to wipe your tears away...  And when you are done reading, you may need someone close by to hug. To hold you. As a mother of three boys, this is one of my biggest nightmares. I don't know if this book would have affected me so severely had I read it before having children...  There are a handful of books that have touched me. That I carry within my heart. There is only one other book that I cannot speak about; one that I instantly cry over every time I think about it... this book has now joined that one. But this book... will probably be the only one, that will forever live inside my soul. Mr. Patrick Ness... thank you.
crayolakym More than 1 year ago
After looking at the cover and reading the back cover, I started reading this book still not coming remotely close to knowing what this book was actually about. This book is not only well written, but filled with a plethora of drawings throughout the book that add a deeper sense of where the story is headed. Conor shook his head. “That’s a terrible story. And a cheat.” Conor’s mom is very ill, his father walked out on them, and his grandma, who treats him poorly, is trying to force him to move in with her. Conor is constantly being bullied at school, has nightmares at night, and life just flat out sucks for this thirteen-year-old boy. That is until the massive tree in the backyard comes alive and is demanding the truth from Conor. Exactly what the truth is that the tree seeks is a mystery to Conor though. As Conor’s mom falls sicker, he becomes angrier and his life spirals into chaos. This book is about the burden of responsibility, grief, anger, and pain and the toppling loneliness that is associated with these burdens. Conor’s story will grab your heartstrings and  make you appreciate all that you have. I would recommend this book, but make sure you thoroughly enjoy the artwork alongside the story.*This book was provided in exchange for an honest review*         *You can view the original review at Musing with Crayolakym and  San Francisco & Sacramento City Book Review
acorley84 More than 1 year ago
First, I must start off by saying that I don't know that there has ever been a book that I have had such a hard time deciding what my rating would be, on top of what my review would be.  If there is a book for a person to connect with, this is the book. This is the closest to truth that I think I have found in my reading, other than reading a biography. I feel that as children, we all have dreams and possibly even reoccurring nightmares. We all also deal with "monsters" within our lifetime and this book does a wonderful job of depicting how a person may really feel while dealing with the monsters of their lives.  This book wasn't exactly what I thought it was going to be which is what made me give it an initial 3 stars upon completing it, however, upon thinking the premise and the story through, I have to say that I would give it at least a 4 star review. I was so happy to see that Siobhan Dowd had such a wonderful thought, and that Patrick Ness was able to pick it up after her death and finish it as though I feel she would have, could she have been given more time on earth to do so. I think the idea of this book was brilliant and one-of-a-kind. The story was very emotional which gave you a great insight into the characters. Everyone knows that life is really like a roller coaster and this book allows us to ride the roller coaster of Connor and his mother's life. The only thing that kept me from giving this book 5 stars was that it was more intended for a younger audience. Overall, it was a very easy (but emotional) read! I enjoyed being able to experience this book. I couldn't wait to get my hands on it from the moment it was recommended to me, and I am certainly glad that I finally got to be a part of it.
_Love_to_Read_ More than 1 year ago
If you get teary eyed easily you may not want to read but this book was very good. The graphics are amazing and the plot itself was suspenceful without being able to not guess the ending. If you want a short read or if you need this for school (i needed it for my college english class) this is your book.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I loved this book and still do its painful to read at times but I loved it just the same because of just how amazing the story is. It is a deep piece that caused me to stop and tjink about the way I live my life. Also it is a great story not very happy maybe but still for those of you who have read because of Winn Dixie its melancholy just like the candy
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I am a girl( i know the name gives it away) and i have read millions of sad books, books that make every one cry when they read it, and i dont cry. Just because im a girl doesnt mean i have cry at every thing. It is hard to make a book to make me cry and that is what this book did. One of the best books. Also try the knife of never letting go by this author. Whoever wrote im your boggest fan.
sailaway7289 More than 1 year ago
Great book
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is an excellent book and should be read by one and all. I bought the book because of MR. Ness and knew nothing about the story ahead of time. I truly think that is how it should be read so I will give NOTHING away about the book, except that, you won't be dissappointed..
Catherine Lennon 3 months ago
Anonymous 6 months ago
good quick read. I cried.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Read it in one day it’s so good!
MontanaPageTurner More than 1 year ago
I was really disappointed in this book. I loved Patrick Ness' Chaos Walking Series but found this one rather boring. Mild SPOILER: although I understand the book has very deep rooted symbolism I found it offensively repetitive and WAY too drawn out. It's about a young boy who is watching his mother dye of cancer. He feels isolated and alone at school and talks with a tree at night. I understand the tree, "the monster" is his internal monster. I don't know, I guess I need more of a story line and intriguing subject matter to keep my attention. I was very disappointed, especially after seeing all the reviews. This book, at best, was a very mild bumpy road with only a mild peak at the end.
marnanel on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This is a book about how the real world isn't a struggle between good and evil, but a struggle between the power of nightmares and the power of story. A boy whose nightmare is a nightly terror is visited by a lesser nightmare which tells him stories. Together, the stories effect a change in his life and help him deal with the greater nightmare.The story was first conceived by Siobhan Dowd, who died from cancer before she could write it. Patrick Ness took her notes and spun a thing of beauty from them. My only two quibbles are minor: one of the three stories is hardly a story at all and would have been better fleshed out, and the description of yew needles as "leaves" was a little jarring.This was the first book which won both the Carnegie (for the text) and the Greenaway (for the illustrations). I rarely say this, but don't read this in the ebook version unless you have no access to a paper copy: the text and illustrations work so well together that unless you're reading it on paper you're only getting three-quarters of the story. The reproductions of the illustrations in the ebook just aren't the same.This book will infect your mind with helpful archetypes, and make you think more deeply. I urge you to read it.