Thursday, August 8, 2013

Review: The Boy Who Could See Demons by Carolyn Jess-Cooke

The Boy Who Could See Demons by Carolyn Jess-Cooke is one of the most profound novels I've read in a while. Because of its protagonists, a deeply troubled ten-year old who can see demons and Anya, a psychiatrist who has her own demons to contend with. The Boy Who Could See Demons explores the affects of living in Northern Ireland during its political/religious conflict, PTSD, childhood schizophrenia, suicide, psychosis, and other supernatural occurances.

The voice of this novel alternates between Alex and Anya. Alex is an intelligent ten-year old who's uncanny ability to speak and see demons (not angels, ghosts) places him on the top of the list for children who are in dire need of care. As well as the self-harm and violence against others, inability to distinguish reality from fantasy, unusual perceptal experiences places him that list of persons in need of treatment, perhaps. After his mother attempts suicide (try #5), his social worker Michael places his treatment in the care of Anya. Anya carries with her a demon as well after seeing her daughter commit suicide and was unable to stop her. Anya feels drawn to Alex and his overwhelming insight into her own personal struggle causes her to question what is real and isn't.

The other main character in the novel is Ruen, Alex's demon friend. Ruen plays a major role in this novel. There are moments when he's able to entice Alex to do things that aren't on the up and up. During blackouts, we are left wondering if maybe they are a result of Ruen at work or something else. The most interesting aspect about Ruen is his ability to come to Alex in different forms. These forms Alex has named Horn Head, Monster, Ghost Boy, and Old Man. Ruen made his appearance the day of his father's mysterious disappearance.

I have said too much. I apologize. The Boy Who Could See Demons is so interesting and is really worth talking about. I usually breeze through reads but I savored every moment with Alex, and absorbed all the information about mental illnesses I could when Anya was narrating. That's not to say Anya is boring or overly technical, but Jess-Cooke does an exceptional job at inserting the realities of children living in the nightmare that was Northern Ireland during and before 2007. She notes that one in five Northern Ireland children will experience major mental health issues. In fact, the premier reason I was unable to speed through The Boy Who Could See Demons is because I wanted to know more about the history of the country (thank you Wikipedia).

 Ultimately, I don't think this is a novel that should be missed. The Boy Who Could See Demons is captivating, and engrossing with richly drawn characters whom we wish to see through to the end. Deeply damaged characters as ravaged as the countryside litter the pages of this book. Insert here honorable mention of Hamlet for all you scholars out there who would love to interpret it's reasoning for being in this novel and how it relates to Alex. I recommend this novel to everyone. It's one of my must-reads of this summer. FYI the ending is a shocker so go and get this book and findout why!  *****

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