Study Guide

A Monster Calls Genre

By Patrick Ness

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Magical Realism

Wait a minute—how the heck can something be both magical and real? After all, it's not like that stuff David Blaine does could actually happen, right? Right?

So let us put it in literary terms for those of you who have never read any Gabriel Garcia Marquez or Italo Calvino: magical realism refers to literature that's set in the real world but sprinkled with bits of fantasy. What with the monster only Conor can see and the way it conjures up other worlds in his backyard, we'd say A Monster Calls fits the bill nicely.

It's an ingenious genre for a cancer story, because it keeps the story from becoming a straight-up tale of woe and misery and death and all that awful jazz. The monster's appearances and tales break up the scenes of Conor's dismal life, giving the reader something magical to hang onto in the midst of the realism—get it?

Young Adult Literature

The main character is 13 years old, and he's dealing with teenage problems like bullying and his parents' divorce. The book won the Carnegie Medal, which is England's version of the Newbery. Pretty cut-and-dried, right? This book's straight up YA.

But A Monster Calls is just as much for adults as kids; maybe even more so in some ways. While teenagers may never have experienced the death of someone they're close to, especially a parent, most adults have. There's no question that the book is far more profound and poignant if you've been through that kind of loss. Plus, who doesn't love a beautifully told story with haunting illustrations?

Really, A Monster Calls is a book for all ages.

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