A Monster Calls is about teenager Conor, whose mother is suffering from cancer. He’s visited by a giant tree monster, who threatens to tell him three stories, at the end of which Conor has to tell him a story – the one story that Conor won’t even tell himself. It’s a heartrending look at how Conor deals with the harsh reality of his mother’s illness and at the prospect of losing her.
Throughout the story, Conor is tormented by a nightmare that he won’t relive, keeping the reader in the dark until almost the end. This not only kept me reading, but came across organic and completely in character and theme; it didn’t feel like a gimmick. The monster’s stories each have moral lessons at their heart, but unexpected ones. Ones that made me question my own moral compass, my own truths.
Ness weaves a tangible sense of Conor’s tightly wound world and I always felt connected to him. His fear and grief was gritty and real. The illustrations by Jim Kay are beautiful, and heighten the tension.
Both sweet and heart-breaking, this book deserves a spot on the shelf. It stayed with me long after I turned the last page. Definitely worth buying – hard copy. That’s how much I loved it!