A MONSTER CALLS
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,
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.
An unflinching, darkly funny, and deeply moving story of a boy, his seriously ill mother, and an unexpected monstrous visitor.
- Candlewick Press
- August 2016
- 224 Pages
“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 (starred review)
“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 (starred review)
“Ness twists out a resolution that is revelatory in its obviousness, beautiful in its execution, and fearless in its honesty. Kay’s artwork keeps the pace, gnawing at the edges of the pages with thundercloud shadows and keeping the monster just barely, terribly seeable.”—Booklist (starred review)
“The power of this beautiful and achingly sad story for readers over the age of 12 derives not only from Mr. Ness’s capacity to write heart-stopping prose but also from Jim Kay’s stunning black-ink illustrations. There are images in these pages so wild and ragged that they feel dragged by their roots from the deepest realms of myth.”—Wall Street Journal
1. “You’re a good boy,” Conor’s mother tells him. “I wish you didn’t have to be quite so good” (page 17). What does she mean by that? Why does Conor have to be so good?
2. How does the monster describe itself to Conor? Where does the monster come from? What does it want? Do you think that the monster is real, or is it a product of Conor’s imagination? What does Conor think?
3. Lily was once Conor’s closest friend, but now he can’t forgive her. Why? Is he right to feel betrayed? How do most people behave around Conor once they learn about his mother’s illness? What would you have done in Lily’s situation?
4. “Stories are wild creatures,” the monster says. “When you let them loose, who knows what havoc they might wreak?” (page 51). What does the monster mean by this? In what ways does the rest of novel prove the monster’s point?
5. Discuss the role that humor plays in this novel. Where are the best comic moments? Describe the monster’s sense of humor. Would you enjoy the monster’s company?
6. “Sometimes people need to lie to themselves most of all,” the monster tells Conor (page 62). Is Conor lying to himself about his mother’s illness? Is his mother lying to herself? What does each of them need to believe? Why?
7. Look closely at the illustrations. How do they capture the tone of the novel? How do they express the range of Conor’s emotions?
8. Who is the hero of the monster’s first tale? Who is the villain? How does the story keep surprising Conor? What does Conor hope to learn from the story? What does he actually learn?
9. Discuss Conor’s relationship with his father. What have they shared over the years? Why does Conor want to live with his father now? Why does his father say no?
10. In the monster’s second tale, whose home is destroyed? Why? What does the story inspire Conor to do? Why does he enjoy doing it? How does Conor’s grandmother respond to his actions? Why?
11. Conor’s monster appears to him in the form of a giant yew tree. What is the medicinal value of the tree? How effective is it as a treatment for his mother’s illness? Why does she want to believe it will help?
12. Harry, the school bully, looks straight into Conor’s eyes and says, “I no longer see you” (page 145). Why is this such a cruel thing to say? How does Conor make himself impossible to miss?
13. Describe Conor’s recurring nightmare. How does it usually end? What changes when the monster demands the truth? What is more painful to Conor than the death of his mother? Why does he need to be honest?
14. At the very end of the novel, what does Conor say to his mother? Why must he say it? Why must she hear it?
15. The authors’ note explains that Patrick Ness wrote this novel based on an idea from Siobhan Dowd. Why was Patrick Ness initially reluctant to take on the project? What persuaded him to change his mind? Even though it’s impossible to know for sure, do you believe Siobhan Dowd would have liked the finished book? Why or why not?