Saturday, October 25, 2014

'The Boy Who Drew Monsters'

For the past week or so, my coworkers have been discussing what they will be wearing on Halloween.  As I listened, I was filled with a certain amount of dread.  I'm not a 'costume girl', yet I didn't want to be the only one not dressed up for the occasion.  "Perhaps," I thought to myself as I munched on yet another mini-candy bar (our boss has been keeping our candy bowl filled to the max because, hey, it's almost Halloween), "I could get away with wearing a silly hat?"

But the more I thought about it, the more I realized that with the rich and varied stories that have filled my brain over the years, I could easily pick-and-choose any character I want. I've been zeroing in on 'Harry Potter' (who hasn't?), and our thrift shop has literally tons of costume choices.  

As I ruminated over just what character I could portray, I began reading a book that I had just picked up from the library, one that was an excellent choice for a cold, dreary, rainy day; a book that suits this spooky season.

'The Boy Who Drew Monsters', written by the always-interesting Keith Donohue, went far-and-above what I initially expected. I loved his first novel, 'The Stolen Child', the tale of a child who was taken away and replaced by a changeling, one of a group of fairies living in a secret community deep in a forest near the boy's home.  It was written with great skill and kept me turning the pages.

But Donohue's newest story goes much deeper.  Although it is still as psychologically challenging as his debut novel, we have no secret community; no deep, magical forest. We are presented with real life, and it is terrifying.

Three years ago, young Jack Peter Keenan and his friend, Nick, nearly drowned in the ocean, and the experience left Jack terrified of leaving his home in a small coastal town in Maine. Instead, Jack draws monsters which take on a life of their own, and no one is safe from them. Jack's mother, Holly, begins to hear strange noises, and his father, Tim, sees images that appear to be real, yet disappear when he gets near them.  When Holly goes to a local priest for help, he and his housekeeper tell her stories of shipwrecks and ghosts. Nick is drawn into the eerie power of the drawings.  While those around Jack are haunted by the images they think they see, only he knows the truth of the terrors that lurk in the outside world.

The story drips with dreariness; cold, snow, darkness, terror, confusion.  It's contemporary setting takes you out of your 'comfort zone' and plops you right down into the mind of a confused, mentally-disabled ten-year old boy.  You become a partner with the parents who are confused and frightened.  But, most of all, you want to stand next to Nick and help him battle the demons that are haunting each and every character in this well-written story.

Author Keith Donohue

But the most brilliant touch of all is the ending, with a twist I did not see coming.  It placed the story well above the 'monsters-in-your-dreams' level.  It made me gasp and shiver.

It was perfect.

I'm still considering a costume, but I'm edging ever closer to a knight in shining armor, someone who would help children break out of the darkness and step into the light.

'The Boy Who Drew Monsters', published by Picador, a division of St. Martin's Press, is available at your local library and favorite independent bookstore. ISBN 976-1-250-05715-0

1 comment:

WritingGoddess said...

I put this one next to my bed yesterday to read, in fact. I just finished 14 by Peter Clines and OH MY! What a story. It may get the honor of being the first book every family member has read. Even Nicole, in Australia, is reading it. I love your reviews, so keep them coming.