A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness

Title: A Monster Calls
Author: Patrick Ness
Genre: Young adult

Rating: 3.5 / 5

Goodreads | Powell’s

I saw the dark and creepy artwork, I saw hundreds of people had shelved it as “horror,” I saw that my library had a copy of the book, and I thought, “this’ll be perfect for my fall/Halloween reading!” So that is how I was approaching this book and although I have tried to separate that out form the actual book and be more objective, I am mostly tired and cranky and have low mental energy so I am pretty sure that affected the rating I gave this book. Full disclosure!

So yeah, what this book isn’t: horror (seriously why would anyone consider it horror?), creepy, scary, suspenseful, etc. So it was kind of disappointing in the “fall seasonal reading” category. And the whole reason I picked it up was to scratch that itch, so… I know, I know, not doing very well with objectivity so far. The one thing that came through and really added creepy to the book was the art. The illustrations had a really nice mysterious, dark, and spooky feeling to them.

On the other hand, this book is pretty touching. It’s a sad story, more about families and loss than anything else, and its approach is much more “sweet” than “horror.” Not sweet in a saccharine way, but in a kind of peaceful or hopeful way. It’s compassionate. I think this book would have had a big impact on me when I was maybe 10 or 12. I would call the book heartfelt, although unlike other reviews, I don’t think this story was especially deep. It’s true that it deals seriously with topics like death, which counts for a lot, but there was still something in the presentation or language that held it back a little. But it is probably perfect for its target age range. It was a  worthwhile book but it’s probably not one I will think about again (those books are actually few and far between–maybe 4 out of the 80 books I’ve read so far this year, so this isn’t really a knock on the book). It’s a solid piece of storytelling on an important subject, and I thought the use of illustration was especially well done.

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