A Monster Calls and Why Reading Sad Books is Important


The monster showed up just after midnight. As they do.

Conor was awake when it came.

-first sentences of A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness

From Amazon: The monster in Conor’s backyard is not the one he’s been expecting — the one from the nightmare he’s had every night since his mother started her treatments. This monster is 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.

Sometimes I hesitate to recommend sad books; they aren’t for everyone. Plus, who wants to intentionally make their kids cry?

A Monster Calls is a book I have wanted to recommend for a long time. While listening to a podcast last week, I was reminded why sometimes it is good to read sad books. It gave me the push I needed to share this special book with you.

The podcast was Ep 170 of the What Should I Read Next podcast by Anne Bogel. She was talking to Anna LaBaron, author of The Polygamist’s Daughter. Anna shared how she did not read fiction because she was too practical; she didn’t see the point. When pressed, however, she remembered she had loved reading Where The Red Fern Grows as a kid. She shared how she would read it over and over, and every time it would make her cry.

“I had so much grief stored up,” she told Anne, “I needed to let it out.”

Stories are like that; they help us process the world and can help us process our emotions. Fiction puts words to our feelings. It can help us grieve for ourselves and for others. Fiction can help us release those feelings safely into the world.

This is why, every once in a while, it can be a good thing to read sad books. And, this is why it is okay for our kids to read them too.

Convinced and ready to cry? Then please read this book! A Monster Calls is a story that deals with cancer, loss, anger, and guilt. It is a book that will make you cry and feel all the feels.

But it is worth reading for another reason too. A Monster Calls is a beautiful piece of art.

From the carefully chosen words to the illustrations that infuse those words with extra power, reading A Monster Calls is an experience. Yes, it contains sadness, hurt, and anger. But, it also contains humor, wisdom, and truth. Within the pages of this book, you will find a well-told, wild story, that has stayed with me. Read it and see if it sticks with you and/or your teen too.

Are there books you have hesitated to recommend because they are too sad? Now is your chance, please share!!

Readers 12 and up