#809: The Boy Who Could See Demons by Carolyn Jess-Cooke

The Boy Who Could See Demons“I first met my demon the morning that Mum said Dad had gone.”

Alex Connolly 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?

___

Review

I’m so confused. I’m not confused by the story so much, although there was some ambiguity present, but more about how I feel about it. I’m not sure if I’m still processing the narrative or I just can’t figure out how it made me feel.

I love psychology. I love how the human mind works. I have lived with mental illness all my life and am currently going through a low phase. On top of this I love stories with a supernatural and/or paranormal element. I find it incredibly fascinating how the mind of some conjures up ideas of demons and angels. I myself do not believe they exist. I am neither religious nor even remotely tempted by any religion. When I suffer through my worst delusions they usually involve things happening to my body, such as being invaded by germs, chemicals, or falling prey to a lethal illness (like ebola). I once believed in aliens, the little grey men type (and more), but that’s as far as I’ve ever gotten.

The Boy Who Could See Demons was what I was expecting, but at the same time it wasn’t. It took a turn where I was left wondering what had really occurred.

The story is delivered through two perspectives, Alex and Anja, Alex’s psychiatrist. Alex has seen demons for a long time, comes from a low socio-economic neighbourhood, has lost his father, and has an unstable mother. Anja on the other hand does not believe in the supernatural or paranormal, has a very rational mind, and has just moved back to Belfast after living in London practicing psychiatry.

The two perspectives create a story where both sides, the irrational and rational, compliment each other and allows a depth reached you would not be able to appreciate if it was from one perspective. I found the writing style and delivery to be very compelling, although I had some trouble becoming drawn in at first.

Alex is a very interesting kid and I love how detailed his delusions are. At the same time it plucked at my heart strings. It’s sad when anyone suffers with mental illness, but more so when it is a child. It was easy to imagine Alex’s confusion and loneliness, as well as his vulnerability.

Anja herself is complex and her vulnerabilities and insecurities become apparent right from the beginning.

The ending however… I don’t know how long it will take me to figure out what to make of it. The majority of loose ends in the story were cleared up, but then again there was some slight ambiguity when it comes to something that occurs more than once. This makes me wish there was more writing surrounding Alex’s demons, but I’m satisfied and enjoyed the story enough for me to eventually let it go.

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