The Boy Who Drew Monsters
Just in time for Halloween reading season comes a fine blend of psychological and supernatural horror from Keith Donohue. Donohue has already achieved fame with great literary/fantasy novels like THE STOLEN CHILD and THE ANGELS OF DESTRUCTION, and also has a Ph.D. in English with a specialization in Irish literature. His latest effort definitely shows signs of classic British/Irish horror tales.
While THE BOY WHO DREW MONSTERS has already been compared to supernatural classics like Henry James' THE TURN OF THE SCREW and Shirley Jackson's THE HAUNTING OF HILL HOUSE, I found it to be uniquely modern and stand on its own merit as a psychological masterwork. The central figure is 10-year-old Jack Peter Keenan, who battles with a severe form of Asperger's that includes a major case of agoraphobia. The first was inflicted upon him at birth, while the second came following his near drowning in the ocean behind his home located on the coast of Maine.
"Donohue creates an atmosphere of dread and builds a world that becomes all too real in its unreality, and readers will turn the pages while filled with the same tension the characters are going through."
However, it is not Jack’s handicap that impacts the book. Rather, it is the unique power he has to bring to life whatever he puts on paper. He has gone through many different phases or obsessions in his life, with the latest being drawing. The only issue for those close to him is that he likes to draw monsters. Jack’s best friend and neighbor, Nick, becomes aware of Jack's supernatural ability and is deeply concerned --- especially when he finds a copy of a recent drawing of a particularly frightening half-man/half-monster. It isn't so much the depiction of this horrible creature as it is the phrase emblazoned on the paper that states DRAW MORE MONSTERS.
Jack's parents, Holly and Tim, do not know what to do with Jack and hope the fear of going outside of the house will pass. The issues and recent violent outbursts Jack has exhibited have them deeply concerned, which has taken a hard toll on their marriage. While Holly seeks counsel with her local parish priest, Tim remains at home with Jack and eventually becomes consumed with finding what appears to be a great, white monster lurking outside their home. Getting severely injured in the pursuit of this creature is not enough to deter Tim, and he has no idea what additional horrors are still to come.
Frightening episodes continue to turn their home into a house of horrors, and Tim, Holly, Jack and Nick must somehow come together to battle something they don't understand. Could Jack really be controlling everything that has been turning their world upside down, or are they actually the victims of a haunting? When Holly is befriended by the priest's housekeeper, an elderly Japanese woman named Miss Tiramaku, she hopes she has found a solution. You see, Miss Tiramaku suffers from the same affliction as Jack and seems to be able to connect with him. The question remains: Is it too late?
THE BOY WHO DREW MONSTERS is definitely an unsettling and compelling read that begs to be read with the lights on and blankets pulled way up. Donohue creates an atmosphere of dread and builds a world that becomes all too real in its unreality, and readers will turn the pages while filled with the same tension the characters are going through. Right up to the jaw-dropping revelation on the last page, this novel ranks with the best of modern-day supernatural thrillers.
Reviewed by Ray Palen on October 10, 2014