The Boy Who Could See Demons is one of those books that deliver much more than expected, and the novel quickly captivated me.
Alex, a sensitive and extremely bright boy, began seeing demons shortly after his father's death. One in particular, Ruen, becomes his friend and companion. His mother loves Alex, but suffers from depression, and after a suicide attempt (not the first), she is hospitalized, and Alex begins seeing Anya, a child psychiatrist. Anya suspects early-onset schizophrenia and has very personal experience with this illness.
The story is told through Alex's journal and through Anya's professional evaluation of Alex and various situations. Anya's insight begins to unravel some threads, and yet, Alex, through Ruen, appears to have knowledge of Anya's life for which there is no logical explanation. Is Alex suffering from hallucinations...or is Ruen real?
It is hard not to fall in love with Alex. He is quirky, intelligent, empathetic, and loyal to his mother. The pace of the novel felt right to me, I was always curious about what would happen next, how Anya would uncover hidden circumstances, and whether or not Ruen was real or an imaginary figment with whom Alex has a love/hate relationship.
The novel has such warmth and compassion and deals not only with Alex's problems and with mental illness and care, but also with the lingering effects of The Troubles in Northern Ireland.
Jess-Cooke reveals information slowly, letting the reader gradually understand what is not stated, to read between the lines, to notice that what is assumed to be true is just that, an assumption. So...there were things I saw coming, but there was one important thing that I did not, a twist that took me by surprise.
I really loved this book. Highly recommended.
The Boy Who Could See Demons was published in the UK in 2012, and the US version will be released Aug. 13, 2013.
From Net Galley/Random House/Delacorte Press.
Literary Fiction. Aug. 13, 2013. Print version 288 pages.