Warning: If you have not read “A Monster Calls” by Patrick Ness, do not read this review if you don’t want spoilers. If you already read the book or don’t mind spoilers, feel free to read this!
I’m back with another book review, and this time it’s “A Monster Calls” by Patrick Ness that I’m reviewing! Here’s a summary so we know what it’s about:
“The monster showed up after midnight. As they do.
But it isn’t the monster Conor’s been expecting. He’s been expecting the one from his nightmare, the one he’s had nearly every night since his mother started her treatments, the one with the darkness and the wind and the screaming…
This monster is something different, though. Something ancient, something wild. And it wants the most dangerous thing of all from Conor.
It wants the truth.”
When it came to the characters, I found the monster that Conor encountered to be very interesting. I liked that he was trying to teach Conor a lesson, and I enjoyed the stories the monster told throughout the book. Conor himself, however, was very one-dimensional and I think he coped with his situation immaturely. I’ll cover more as of why in a later paragraph in this review. The other characters such as Conor’s mother having cancer, the bullies, as well as Conor’s grandma seemed very one-dimesional as well. None of the characters had much development, save for maybe Conor himself. The plotline of the story itself was okay, but without the characters having much development, there wasn’t much life in the story. The illustrations in the book were helpful, though.
I didn’t understand the point of the bullies bullying Conor. Were they jealous of him for how smart he was? Did the bullies themselves have bad home lives and so picked on Conor, who has just as bad as a home life or worse, to make themselves feel better? Without any motivations or reasons, the bullies especially come off as one-dimensional.
The one thing that really bothered me in the book was how Conor was dealing with the various troubling situations he was placed in. Unlike in “History Is All You Left Me” where the grief over the main event was mostly well-dealt with, I found that Conor’s ways of coping were, for the most part, unhealthy. Being encouraged to smash things isn’t always the best way to deal with the anger, especially given that he wrecked his grandma’s office. Also, beating up a bully after days of bottled-up resentment also isn’t the way to go and deal with this, either. One could chalk it up to Conor being immature, and to be fair he’s a young child, but the fact that none of the parent figures or authority figures like the teachers and principals do anything to help Conor cope with all this in a healthier way doesn’t help the situation. It might seem like or feel like the right thing to do in the short term, but going on a tantrum and smashing everything isn’t a healthy way of coping in the long run.
Was it good that Conor was encouraged not to keep these bottled feelings and destroy himself on the inside? Yes. Was it bad that he let it all out in a way that hurt others and potentially could’ve hurt himself? Yes. Was it especially bad that no one gave Conor any help as of how to cope with everything? Yes. If anything, the book demonstrates that people are bad at helping others as of how to cope with grief.
Overall, I’m rating this book 2.5 out of 5 stars for the flat characters, as well as the encouragement of unhealthy coping mechanisms.