(Original review posted on Goodreads: Aug 12, 2013)
Though structured and paced like a thriller, what this book really is, is a finely sketched portrait of pain. And I don't mean the passive kind, where you feel for characters because they have tragic back-stories. No, this pain is personal; it's deeper, more penetrating and quietly horrifying. When the finale played out, I swear my heart skipped a beat because I was so shocked, and then it just broke.
The Boy Who Could See Demons was a book I requested on a whim. I had no major expectations going in, which is probably why I'm so impressed with it. It's gratifying to read something totally un-hyped and then get to say "Wow, that was good!" And this was really good. Not the best psychological thriller I've ever read but very gripping and memorable. It kept me guessing throughout and just when I thought I knew the answers, I realized I was asking the wrong questions.
The narration alternates between Anya, the psychiatrist, and Alex, the patient, who claims his best friend Ruen is a demon only he can see. The strength of this book lies in the characterization. Not only are Alex and Anya's individual voices very genuine and well-done, even the secondary characters like Alex's depressed mom Cindy, his social worker Michael, and even his demon friend Ruen, are finely etched. This is a very easy book to read because the writing is straightforward and simple, maybe a little too simple at times.
There is a big twist at the end. I did not see it coming but what's really amazing is how, looking back, I cannot imagine it playing out any other way.
The Boy Who Could See Demons is a dark, disturbing exploration of a traumatized human mind. It's disconcerting to think that something associated with rational thought and reason can make you see and believe in things that defy logic. Echoing the lines Anya comes across in Milton's Paradise Lost:
"The mind is its own place, and in itself,
Can make a heav'n of hell, a hell of heav'n."
3.5 rounded off to 4
**I recieved an ARC from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review**