Monday, May 13, 2013

The Boy Who Could See Demons by Carolyn Jess-Cooke

The Boy Who Could See Demons
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?

I’ve said it time and time again, but I will say it again: an unreliable narrator is, for me, the best literary device any author can use to produce a taut, fascinating narrative.

An unreliable narrator, though, makes it hard to write a proper review, since I don’t want to give anything away to those of you who haven’t read it. If I’m a little vague, then that is the reason. The story has two narratives: Alex’s and Anya. Anya is a psychiatrist who takes over Alex’s case when his mother tries to kill herself and his apparent delusions threaten to take over his life. We get tastes of both unique voices so that we do feel connected to both characters. This is why the end comes as such a shock.

The story is pretty straight-forward until the last chapter or so when we really start to feel something is “off”. The author manages to build a wonderful sense of tension throughout the novel, so that a few times I did find a slight shiver running down my spine.

If you love unreliable narrators and complex stories, then I do recommend this one. It’s a lot of fun.

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