Book Review – The Boy Who Drew Monsters by Keith Donohue

July 17, 2015 Bonnie Adult, Book Reviews, Read in 2015 3 Comments

I received this book free from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Book Review – The Boy Who Drew Monsters by Keith DonohueThe Boy Who Drew Monsters by Keith Donohue
Published by Picador on October 7th 2014
Pages: 288
Genres: Gothic, Horror
Format: eARC
Source: Netgalley
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three-half-stars

From the New York Times bestselling author of The Stolen Child comes a hypnotic literary horror novel about a young boy trapped inside his own world, whose drawings blur the lines between fantasy and reality.

Ever since he nearly drowned in the ocean three years earlier, ten-year-old Jack Peter Keenan has been deathly afraid to venture outdoors. Refusing to leave his home in a small coastal town in Maine, Jack Peter spends his time drawing monsters. When those drawings take on a life of their own, no one is safe from the terror they inspire. His mother, Holly, begins to hear strange sounds in the night coming from the ocean, and she seeks answers from the local Catholic priest and his Japanese housekeeper, who fill her head with stories of shipwrecks and ghosts. His father, Tim, wanders the beach, frantically searching for a strange apparition running wild in the dunes. And the boy’s only friend, Nick, becomes helplessly entangled in the eerie power of the drawings. While those around Jack Peter are haunted by what they think they see, only he knows the truth behind the frightful occurrences as the outside world encroaches upon them all.

In the tradition of The Turn of the Screw, Keith Donohue’s The Boy Who Drew Monsters is a mesmerizing tale of psychological terror and imagination run wild, a perfectly creepy read for a dark night.

“In the dream house, the boy listened for the monster under his bed.”

Jack Peter hasn’t been the same since he almost drowned when he was seven-years-old. Becoming terrified of the world outside, he’s become something of a recluse for the past three years and his parents, and even doctors, have been struggling to find a reason. When the terrifying things that Jack claims to see become visible to his parents, they begin to think they’re going insane rather than realizing that maybe what their son has been saying isn’t exactly a lie. Is there something supernatural astir or is everyone, in fact, going insane?

The slow, subtle build leaves the reader in a constant state of anxiety, unable to differentiate between reality and madness. While not exactly terrifying, despite the depictions of a pale white creature which roams the lands around their home and of the babies that defy gravity by crawling across the walls, this story still manages to leave a slight restlessness in its implications. A comparison to A Turn of the Screw is expected, what with the creepy children and of the general gothic-like atmosphere of panic and terror. Donohue applies an inspirational twist to this tale by granting power behind the monsters to a child. What would cause a child to want to create terrifying monsters in reality? Does he have the power to control their actions or only their existence? And does their existence serve a purpose?

One aspect that could have been dealt with better were the adults. Their continued ignorance of the wrongness of the occurrences is typical yet tiresome. Failing to believe in their young sons seemingly fictitious stories is one thing but it’s a problem when you’re seeing said stories with your own eyes and are still acting oblivious. I would have preferred this story told entirely from the point of view of the children, since their perspective of what was happening left you feeling like a child once again, terrified of the monster under the bed.

Not terrifying, yet still memorable. Donohue impressed me with his prose and capability of maintaining a mysterious edginess. I will definitely be seeking out his earlier works.

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