The Boy Who Could See Demons
- Little, Brown Book Group
- Publication Date:
- 10 May 2012
- Modern & Contemporary
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My rating: 4 of 5 starsThe Boy Who Could See Demons is a Delacorte Press publication. The book was released in 2012. Anya is a therapist that has dealt with mental illnesses her whole life, beginning with her mother, then with her daughter, Poppy. Sadly, Poppy lost her battle and died. Now Anya has been given the case of ten year old Alex. Alex has witnessed his mother, Cindy, attempt suicide. Cindy has attempted suicide numerous times. Alex is above average in intelligence and vocabulary. But, he is deeply troubled. He tells Anya that he has an imaginary friend named Ruen, who is actually a demon. Only to Alex, Ruen is very real. Anya becomes convinced that Alex is in the early stages of mental illness and should be placed in an institution. However, the board and Alex's social worker, Michael, are opposed to that idea and so, Anya continues to treat Alex the best she can. She keeps in touch with Cindy, and with Alex's aunt, as well as interviewing Alex's teachers and talking things out with Michael. Anya and Michael often agree to disagree, but they are also on the same side. Helplessly, we watch Alex sink deeper and deeper. He has a great many conflicts concerning his father and some very disturbing memories. Ruen is with Alex at every turn, manipulating him into doing things he wouldn't ordinarily do. Anya is also at Ruen's mercy it seems. Alex relays messages to Anya from Ruen. These messages send chills down your spine. While struggling against the system and fighting for what she thinks is the best treatment for Alex, Anya herself begins to have some disturbing episodes with fainting spells. Throughout the book it feels like there is something just on the periphery that know is there, but can't figure out what exactly it is. A strong sense of foreboding follows you and increases as you learn more about Alex and Ruen. Alex is a delightful child that tells jokes and loves his mother despite her flaws. Alex's jokes, although corny, provides much needed comic relief. The novel is moody, dark and atmospheric. At times you feel like you are walking through dense fog, hoping that it will eventually burn off and you will be able to see things more clearly. There are never any real pat answers when dealing with mental illness and this book doesn't attempt to tie everything up in neat bow for the sake of a happy ever after. Naturally, we hope the breakthrough will be a good beginning to restoring lives to some semblance of normalcy. But, there are no guarantees in real life or in this novel, although we hope for the best. This was a very absorbing read. Mental illness is always a difficult topic. So, this book does have a melancholy tone. But, it's also a psychological suspense novel that mystery lovers might like as well. It's hard to place this book in any particular genre. So, if you like thought provoking novels with a little spine tingle and suspense, you should check this one out. You will think about it for awhile after you have read the last page. Overall I give this one an A. Thanks to the publisher and Netgalley for the DRC copy of this book.
Alex is a boy with a suicidal mother and his own psychological issues. He sees Demons. One in particular named Ruen seems to have a strong influence on him. Anya his new psychiatrist suspects he may have early onset schizophrenia. Anya has some personal experience as her daughter had a similar diagnosis that ultimately led to her death. Anya sets out on a mission to treat and save Alex since she was not able to help her own child.Maybe I am too trusting of a reader but I always tend to side with the patient and refuse to believe they are actually schizophrenic. This novel was no exception. Oblivious as a result the twist threw me for a loop. This was well thought out and looking back the ground work was nicely set. I did think that the conclusion wrapped up a bit too quickly. Some of the stats regarding mental health in Northern Ireland were unknown to me and surprising and made me want to learn more about this political strife.
This latest novel by author Carolyn Jess-Cooke explores early onset schizophrenia and how growing up in areas of violence and terror affect not only the survivors but the 'secondary impact' they have on the next generation.The story alternates between the two major protagonists, ten-year-old Alex and Anya, his psychiatrist.Alex lives in a poor neighbourhood in Belfast with his severely depressed mother, Cindy. His voice is heard through his diary in which he appears to be a very intelligent, precocious child. He has one friend, a 9000-year-old demon named Ruen.Anya is a child Psychologist. She grew up in Belfast and has returned after several years away because she feels that this is where she can do the most good. She is dealing with her own grief at the loss of her daughter Poppy and she sees much of Poppy in Alex. She is convinced that Alex suffers from early-onset schizophrenia and is determined to keep him from the same fate as Poppy even if it means separating him from his mother. Anya always speaks in the first person.It is never clear through most of the book whether Ruen is real or a delusion. Either way, although it is clear that Ruen has become a coping mechanism for Alex, he is a very dangerous one. And Ruen is so fully formed that even Anya begins to wonder if he might be real.Place plays as important a role as person in this story. Although the Troubles are over in Northern Ireland at least for now, they have left behind a population reeling from the impact of living through the constant threat of violence: depression, a high incidence of suicides and psychological disorders, in fact, all of the problems you would expect to see in a war zone. And, as Ms Jess-Cooke shows, it is not just the survivors but future generations who will continue to suffer.This is an easy book to read but not an easy subject. Author Jess-Cooke has an almost breezy way of writing which should downplay the seriousness of the story but, in fact, it does the opposite. Alex' penchant for corny jokes contrasts and heightens the horrible conditions he lives with; Anya's constant battles to help Alex serve to highlight her own fragile psyche. This is the kind of book you can read in a couple of hours but will keep you thinking long after you finish it.
The story is told by the two main characters, 10 year old Alex Brocolli who sees demons, and Anya a child psychologist who, herself coming to terms with the death of her schizophrenic daughter Poppy, desperately wants to help Alex.The chapters are perfectly balanced to give rounded in-depth believable character development which in order to appreciate and understand them and their personal struggles with their demons, imagined or real, is vital. I genuinely loved Alex's character, his innocence, charm and naivety all be it with an older than his years persona come about from taking care of Cindy his severely depressed mother who'd attempted suicide several times since the mysterious death of Alex's father. At the beginning of each of his diary entries Alex writes a joke, sometimes with juvenile humour and sometimes with a darker trace. I actually laughed as I could imagine Alex writing them and looked forward to what he would come up with for his next entry. Alex sees demons from the time of his fathers death. The, 9000 years old demon, Ruen manifests in 3 forms, a ghost boy, a horned demon and an ugly old man. During the course of the story it becomes apparent what these forms represent but the question is always, is Alex really seeing demons or suffering from schizophrenia. The portrayal of schizophrenia is very well portrayed to draw you into the mind of the sufferer and the confusion between what is real and what is imagined. Carolyn Jess-Cooke has written an achingly beautiful piece of fiction with obvious tracks of personal experiences as with the IRA elements running throughout the story. This is a profound novel about mental illness, devastating loss, and the guilt, remorse and struggle for atonement. It will certainly draw awareness to the aftermath of emotional trauma felt by the current generation of those who lived through 'The Troubles'. I must admit I wasn't expecting the ending as it was. I felt a little cheated and genuinely felt that, from what I had read thus far, Carolyn was far better than that. It felt contrived and that it was trying to imitate another ending. I cannot say anymore without giving too much away. That said, I really loved 'The Boy Who Could See Demons' and will certainly look out for more from Carolyn.I would have given this 5 out of 5 but for the ending.Thank you to Random House Publishing Group - Bantam Dell and NetGalley.com for the opportunity to review this novel.
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