A monster calls, and readers answer

British-American author Patrick Ness writes critically acclaimed book A Monster Calls.

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British-American author Patrick Ness writes critically acclaimed book “A Monster Calls.”

Monsters are nothing new in today’s media. They often serve as a driving conflict or a poignant portrayal of a more significant social issue. With the oversaturation of monsters in fiction, it is hard to find unique dynamics between the story and its terror. Enter Patrick Ness.


Ness is a British-American author whose works include “The Crash of Hennington,” “The Ask and The Answer,” and the topic of today’s review, “A Monster Calls.”


In the book’s description, Ness states that this is “the final story idea of Siobhan Dowd, whose premature death from cancer prevented her from writing it herself.” In conveying Dowd’s final message, Ness and illustrator Jim Kay did something special with their monster. It is not only an antagonizing force; it is there to help.


This tale begins with a 13-year-old British boy named Conor, living with his sick single mother. Since the appearance of his mother’s illness, Conor has been experiencing terrible nightmares. It has gotten to the point where he expects a monster every night, so when this one appears, he is not surprised nor scared. What is surprising, however, is that it starts showing up in real life.


After a couple days of lurking, this monster makes itself known. When Conor asks the beast to identify itself, it gives a list of names, most of which point to one word; “Cernunnos.”


According to Mythopedia, Cernunnos is “the horned god, the master of wild places and things.” This definition means that this monster is not just some beast; it is a god of nature. This subtle clue immediately separates him from other monsters in popular media.


After this introduction, Cernunnos explains why he is here before leaving for the night: “I will tell you three stories. Three tales from when I walked before… and when I have finished my three stories… you will tell me a fourth… your truth.”


The next day, he returns to tell the first of the three stories. In each story, Cernunnos teaches Conor a lesson and changes his perspective. After each conversation, his mother’s condition gets worse. These interactions and progressions prepare Conor to tell his truth and ultimately face the real, unavoidable conflict.


The combination of Ness’s storytelling and Kay’s illustrations paint a painfully accurate depiction of what it means to cope with loss.


“A Monster Calls” can be bought from Patrick Ness’s website for $12.