The Boy Who Could See Demons
by Carolyn Jess-Cooke
Random House Publishing Group
Publish Date: 13th August 2013
Rating: 4 out of 5
"I first met my demon the morning that Mum said Dad had gone."
Alex Broccoli is ten years old, likes onions on toast, and can balance on the back legs of his chair for fourteen minutes. His best friend is a 9000-year-old demon called Ruen. When his depressive mother attempts suicide yet again, Alex meets child psychiatrist Anya. Still bearing the scars of her own daughter's battle with schizophrenia, Anya fears for Alex's mental health and attempts to convince him that Ruen doesn't exist. But as she runs out of medical proof for many of Alex's claims, she is faced with a question: does Alex suffer from schizophrenia, or can he really see demons?"
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.