Book Review: The Boy Who Could See Demons by Carolyn Jess-Cooke
The Boy Who Could See Demons by Carolyn Jess-Cooke
In this highly original novel we follow the story of Alex, a ten-year-old boy who can see demons, and Anya, a psychiatrist who is tasked with assessing him for a possible mental illness. Alex is a delightful and compelling character – he is both younger and older than his age, at times full of humour and joy, at other times scared and alone, despite his near constant demonic companions. Alex lives in Northern Ireland in a rundown house with a mother who has her own problems. She has made repeated suicide attempts and when the book opens she has made another attempt on her life that puts her in hospital. Alex believes his father died when he was five years old, and ever since then he has put up with the company of a rather nasty little demon called Ruen who takes on numerous physical forms – Horn Head, Monster, Ghost Boy and Old Man – depending on his mood. Only Alex can see this demon and his demonic cohorts.
When Alex’s mother tries to kill herself, Anya meets Alex for the first time and she is determined to help this fragile boy. But Anya has her own demons, of sorts. Her daughter died after suffering from schizophrenia. She believes that Alex might be suffering the same illness, but will she be able to keep impartial as she is drawn into Alex’s world?
It soon becomes apparent that whatever is troubling Alex – whether it be demon or illness – the crux of the problem lives with Alex’s father. But will Alex and Anya be prepared for the consequences of discovering the truth?
This is a fabulous novel. It can be read on many levels and it successfully explores some of the aspects of mental illnesses, and the spiritual and emotional aspects of life, without being heavy handed. And the characters are unforgettable. Alex is an engaging and extremely likable character – ultimately a boy of great courage – and Anya is a character who finds some sense of her own redemption by helping Alex, opening the door again for things in life she has closed off since her daughter’s death. There are sad moments in this book, but the ending will satisfy.