A Monster Calls

By Patrick Ness

Plot Summary

In the story “A Monster Calls” we meet a young boy at the age of thirteen named Conor. Conor has been the man in his house since his parents divorced and his father moved to America with his new wife. Conor’s mother we learn from the very beginning of the book is quite ill. She has been taking many medications and he is used to everytime she begins a new treatment she begins vomiting uncontrollably. Then one day he wakes up after having his normal nightmare and sees a monster outside of his window which beckons him to come outside. Conor meets this monster and the monster tells him that he has summoned him. The monster then gives Conor three important stories to help him when it comes time for Conor to tell the monster his story at first Connor doesn’t understand what story the monster wants then it he realizes, the monster wants his story; his nightmare.


Conor O’Malley: The protagonist of this story, and a very dynamic and round character. He is thirteen, and seems like your average teenager. He is sarcastic, trying to grow up too fast and wild. His temper is short and wild, especially when it comes to the subject of his mother. He is in constant denial of his mother’s illness and her condition, and we see him go from denial and conflicted, to eventually maturing, and accepting what is happening in his life.

The Monster: The anticipated antagonist, but in reality is just trying to help Conor. He is a yew tree who comes walking “only for matters of life and death.” (35). He is a frightening character, although Conor takes no fear in him. He is a round and dynamic character, as he plays too a key role in the actions that Conor takes throughout the short story. He comes off as a menacing character, but in reality tries to right injustice in this world.

Mum (name not given): Conor’s mom who has been diagnosed with cancer and is going through chemotherapy. They are a secondary character who is Conor’s motivation for his actions throughout the book. She is a fairly static character, who seems to be in constant denial herself until the very end of the book. She is also very flat who is your typical motherly character, lying to her child in hopes of protecting them. She hopes for the best for Conor and wants him to be happy through her illness.

Dad: Conor’s dad who lives in America with another family. He is absent in Conor’s life, but visits and calls him occasionally. We do see that he cares for his son, but not as much as his new family, as he is only willing to visit for a few days then has to care for his new child. He is a static and flat character, not really changing his opinion and actions according to the events taking place.

Grandma: Conor’s mother’s mother. She is a secondary flat and static character. She seems to cling to life by dying her hair and being independent for as long as possible while her daughter falls ill. Although she has good intentions, Conor does not like her controlling and neat freak lifestyle, resulting in Conor’s outburst in destruction of her living room.


Stories can help you through life, even in unexpected ways. Conor believed that the stories the Monster told were useless, when they turned out to be beneficial to helping him cope with his grief.

Don’t judge the author before reading the story. Each of the Monster’s stories was centered around the theme of don’t judge outwardly. It was reflected on Connor as being unfair, but once the Monster had explained it to him, he realized that the stories had more meaning than what he initially thought.

Hiding yourself from emotion and the truth will eat you alive. In the beginning of the story, the Monster says that the truth is the thing that Connor truly fears. The Monster asks Connor to tell him the truth, and if he doesn’t he will eat him alive. The Monster is just a mere physical representation of his internal conflict and turmoil, caused by him hiding himself from emotion and truth all together.


The setting is key to the development of the mood such as the mystery of the monster. Setting also makes each and every story new and exciting, and seemingly full of life. The setting truly enhances the frightening air the Monster emits by describing the dark atmosphere in the dark. We see each setting truly emphasize the emotions being felt by the character and increases the mood of each moment. For instance when the monster comes walking, it is dark, and then as he tells his story the setting molds into a bright castle; this changes the mood from dark to intrigued.

Author Bio

Patrick Ness was born in America but lives in London. He is the author of the critically acclaimed and best-selling Chaos Walking trilogy. He has won numerous awards, including the Carnegie Medal, the Guardian Children’s Fiction Prize, the Booktrust Teenage Prize and the Costa Children’s Book Award.