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A Monster Calls Book Summary

Inspired by an idea from Siobhan Dowd

by Patrick Ness

A Monster Calls

Inspired by an idea from Siobhan Dowd

Patrick Ness


A Monster Calls is a poignant and powerful young adult novel that explores themes of grief, loss, and acceptance through the story of 13-year-old Conor O’Malley. Haunted by nightmares and struggling with his mother’s terminal illness, Conor encounters a monstrous yew tree who becomes an unexpected ally and guide. Through a series of visits and stories, the monster challenges Conor to confront his deepest fears and emotions, ultimately leading him on a journey of healing and self-discovery.

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Author & Writing Background

Patrick Ness is an award-winning British-American author known for his captivating young adult fiction. Born in Virginia and raised in Washington state, Ness has garnered critical acclaim for his thought-provoking narratives and masterful storytelling. “A Monster Calls” was inspired by an idea from Siobhan Dowd, a renowned author who tragically passed away before she could complete the story. Ness took on the mantle and crafted a deeply moving and unforgettable novel.

Key Takeaways

The Monster’s Visits

The monster, a towering yew tree with ancient wisdom, visits Conor at precisely 12:07 AM. Each visit unfolds as a story, a parable or fable that delves into complex themes of human nature, morality, and the blurred lines between good and evil.

Conor’s Struggles

Conor grapples with a range of emotions as he navigates his mother’s illness, bullying at school, and his own feelings of anger, guilt, and fear. The monster’s stories act as catalysts for Conor to confront these internal conflicts and begin to process his grief.

Truth and Lies

The monster emphasizes the importance of truth, even when it’s painful or difficult to face. Conor’s journey involves acknowledging his own truths and confronting the lies he tells himself and others as a coping mechanism.

Acceptance and Healing

Through the monster’s guidance and the power of storytelling, Conor gradually learns to accept his mother’s fate and his own complex emotions. He begins to find solace and healing in the process.

The Power of Stories

The novel highlights the transformative power of storytelling as a means of understanding ourselves, coping with difficult experiences, and finding meaning in the face of adversity.

Grief and Loss

A Monster Calls explores the multifaceted nature of grief and the different ways people cope with loss. It emphasizes that there is no right or wrong way to grieve and that healing is a personal journey.

Forgiveness and Empathy

The story encourages forgiveness, both of oneself and others. It also fosters empathy by allowing readers to connect with Conor’s emotional journey and understand the perspectives of different characters.

Humanity and Monstrosity

The novel challenges conventional notions of what it means to be human and what constitutes a monster. It suggests that the true monsters often reside within ourselves and that we all possess the capacity for both good and evil.

FAQ about A Monster Calls

What age group is this book suitable for?

While categorized as young adult fiction, “A Monster Calls” deals with mature themes and complex emotions. It is generally recommended for readers aged 12 and above, but parental guidance is advised due to the sensitive subject matter.

Is the movie adaptation faithful to the book?

The 2016 film adaptation of “A Monster Calls” remains largely faithful to the book’s core narrative and themes. However, there are some differences in pacing and certain plot points. Both the book and the movie offer unique and powerful experiences.

What is the significance of the monster?

The monster serves as a complex symbol throughout the novel. It represents Conor’s subconscious, his deepest fears and desires, and ultimately, a force of healing and guidance. The monster’s stories and challenges help Conor confront his emotions and find acceptance.

A Monster Calls Quotes

  • ”Stories are wild creatures, the monster said. When you let them loose, who knows what havoc they might wreak?"
  • "There is not always a good guy. Nor is there always a bad one. Most people are somewhere in between."
  • "You do not write your life with words…You write it with actions. What you think is not important. It is only important what you do.”