The Boy Who Could See Demons: A Novel

The Boy Who Could See Demons: A Novel

by Carolyn Jess-Cooke

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Overview

Bestselling author Carolyn Jess-Cooke has written a brilliant novel of suspense that delves into the recesses of the human mind and soul—perfect for fans of Gillian Flynn and Lisa Unger. The Boy Who Could See Demons follows a child psychologist who comes up against a career-defining case—one that threatens to unravel her own painful past and jeopardizes the life of a boy who can see the impossible.
 
Dr. Anya Molokova, a child psychiatrist, is called in to work at MacNeice House, an adolescent mental health treatment center. There she is told to observe and assess Alex Connolly, a keenly intelligent, sensitive ten-year-old coping with his mother’s latest suicide attempt. Alex is in need of serious counseling: He has been harming himself and others, often during blackouts. At the root of his destructive behavior, Alex claims, is his imaginary “friend” Ruen, a cunning demon who urges Alex to bend to his often violent will.
 
But Anya has seen this kind of behavior before—with her own daughter, Poppy, who suffered from early-onset schizophrenia. Determined to help Alex out of his darkness, Anya begins to treat the child. But soon strange and alarming coincidences compel Anya to wonder: Is Alex’s condition a cruel trick of the mind? Or is Ruen not so make-believe after all? The reality, it turns out, is more terrifying than anything she has ever encountered.
 
A rich and deeply moving page-turner, The Boy Who Could See Demons sets out to challenge the imagination and capture the way life takes unexpected turns. In the best storytelling tradition, it leaves the reader changed.

Praise for The Boy Who Could See Demons
 
“A well written, engaging read filled with compassion for those suffering the whims of an untamed mental illness . . . A poignant read, The Boy Who Could See Demons is a suspenseful novel that probes the issues surrounding the devastating effects of mental illness. The author delves into the psychological issues of schizophrenia and mental disorders with such dexterity it leaves the reader stirred and affected, questioning throughout the story what is real and what is not. . . . As the conclusion draws near, the story takes unexpected turns, making it even more dramatic and compelling.”New York Journal of Books
 
“Impressive . . . Jess-Cooke is every bit as skillful in her vivid portrayals of unworldly beings . . . as in illustrating the dreadful toll taken by mental illness.”Booklist
 
“A searing novel of suspense.”Publishers Weekly

“A psychologically complex thriller, told with compassion in a marvelously suspenseful narrative that keeps you engaged from the first page to the last . . . This book has it all: a dark and dangerous setting, characters full of depth, rich emotions, and a clever plot. You’ll fall in love with Alex—and his demons.”—Chevy Stevens, author of Still Missing
 
“Top-notch psychological suspense . . . Beware what you think you know. It might be only the demons talking.”—Lisa Gardner, author of Touch & Go
 
“Brilliant! Rich with fully formed characters, this heart-gripping novel will keep you riveted from first page to last.”—Jeffery Deaver, author of XO
 
“Utterly captivating, this is a book I adored and savored from the first to the very last magical page.”—Tess Gerritsen, author of Ice Cold

Editorial Reviews

Library Journal

Child psychiatrist Anya Molokova has been asked to assess ten-year-old Alex, who claims that the wily demon Ruen is telling him to hurt himself and others. Anguished by her own daughter's early-onset schizophrenia, Anya thinks Alex, too, is hearing voices—then realizes that Ruen might not be imaginary. Great reviewer and reader response where this book has already been published.

Publishers Weekly

British poet Jess-Cooke follows her fiction debut, The Guardian Angel’s Journal, with a searing novel of suspense that plumbs a bereaved mother’s anguish. Anya Molokova, a child psychiatrist, has returned to her native Belfast hoping to help heal some of the 20 percent of Northern Ireland’s children who suffer from severe mental health problems. Anya, herself both the child of a suicidal parent and the agonized mother of a schizoid daughter who died tragically four years earlier, becomes professionally and personally involved with Alex Broccoli, a tormented 10-year-old with an imaginary demon friend. Jess-Cooke’s scalding descriptions of Belfast and its mental health care system ring painfully true, but the facile conclusion turns this perceptive exploration of schizophrenia upside down, even as it reinforces the novel’s predominant message—that as another poet long ago made his demon tempter insist, ordinary “reality” can indeed be an inescapable hell. Agent: Madeline Buston, Darley Anderson Literary Agency (U.K.). (Aug.)

From the Publisher

A well written, engaging read filled with compassion for those suffering the whims of an untamed mental illness . . . A poignant read, The Boy Who Could See Demons is a suspenseful novel that probes the issues surrounding the devastating effects of mental illness. The author delves into the psychological issues of schizophrenia and mental disorders with such dexterity it leaves the reader stirred and affected, questioning throughout the story what is real and what is not. . . . As the conclusion draws near, the story takes unexpected turns, making it even more dramatic and compelling.”New York Journal of Books
 
“Impressive . . . Jess-Cooke is every bit as skillful in her vivid portrayals of unworldly beings . . . as in illustrating the dreadful toll taken by mental illness.”Booklist
 
“A searing novel of suspense.”Publishers Weekly

“A psychologically complex thriller, told with compassion in a marvelously suspenseful narrative that keeps you engaged from the first page to the last . . . This book has it all: a dark and dangerous setting, characters full of depth, rich emotions, and a clever plot. You’ll fall in love with Alex—and his demons.”—Chevy Stevens, author of Still Missing
 
“Top-notch psychological suspense . . . Beware what you think you know. It might be only the demons talking.”—Lisa Gardner, author of Touch & Go
 
“Brilliant! Rich with fully formed characters, this heart-gripping novel will keep you riveted from first page to last.”—Jeffery Deaver, author of XO
 
“Utterly captivating, this is a book I adored and savored from the first to the very last magical page.”—Tess Gerritsen, author of Ice Cold
 
“An absolute chiller, deep, moving, and utterly gripping . . . I was riveted from the unsettling beginning to the mind-bender of an ending. This is a stellar read that will stay with me for a good long while.”—Lisa Unger, author of Heartbroken
 
“A rare and intriguing book, both emotionally and intellectually challenging . . . The cerebral challenge is the puzzle at the heart of the novel: Whose truth is real?”—Helen Grant, author of The Vanishing of Katharina Linden
 
“A stunning story—a well-researched, authoritative delve into psychosis, guilt, and damage . . . thrilling, wholly plausible, and utterly satisfying.”—Julia Crouch, author of Every Vow You Break
 

“Gripping from the opening paragraph to its final revelations, this is a brilliant exploration of the point where imagination, psychology, art, politics, and the supernatural meet and merge in a young boy’s mind. The Boy Who Could See Demons is touching and painfully funny.”—Christopher Fowler, author of The Memory of Blood

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780345536549
Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
Publication date: 08/13/2013
Sold by: Random House
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 288
Sales rank: 966,760
File size: 3 MB

Read an Excerpt

9780345536532|excerpt

Jess-Cooke / THE BOY WHO COULD SEE DEMONS

1

Ruen

ALEX

People look at me funny when I tell them I have a demon.

“Don’t you mean, you have demons?” they ask. “Like a drug problem or an urge to stab your dad?” I tell them no. My demon is called Ruen, he’s about five foot three, and his favorite things are Mozart, table tennis, and rice pudding.

I met Ruen and his friends five years, five months, and six days ago. It was the morning that Mum said Dad had gone, and I was at school. A bunch of very strange creatures appeared in the corner of the room beside the canvas we’d made of the Titanic. Some of them looked like people, though I knew they weren’t teachers or anyone’s parents because some of them looked like wolves, but with human arms and legs. One of the females had arms, legs, and ears that were all different, as if they had belonged to different people and were pieced together like Frankenstein. One of her arms was hairy and muscly, the other was thin like a girl’s. They frightened me, and I started to cry because I was only five.

Miss White came over to my desk and asked what was wrong. I told her about the monsters in the corner. She took off her glasses very slowly and pushed them into her hair, then asked if I was feeling all right.

I looked back at the monsters. I couldn’t stop looking at the one who had no face but just a huge red horn, like a rhino’s horn, only red, in his forehead. He had a man’s body but it was covered in fur and his black trousers were held up with braces that were made out of barbed wire and dripping with blood. He was holding a long pole with a round metal ball on top with spikes sticking out of it like a hedgehog. He put a finger where his lips would be, if he had any, and then a voice appeared in my head. It sounded very soft and yet gruff, just like my Dad’s:

“I’m your friend, Alex.”

And then all the fear left me because what I wanted more than anything in the whole world was a friend.

I found out later that Ruen has different ways of appearing and this was the one I call the Horn Head, which is very scary, especially when you see it for the first time. Luckily he doesn’t appear like that very often.

Miss White asked what I was staring at, because I was still looking at the monsters and wondering if they were ghosts, because some of them were like shadows. The thought of it made me start to open my mouth and I felt a noise start to come out, but before it grew too big I heard my Dad’s voice, again in my head:

“Be calm, Alex. We’re not monsters. We’re your friends. Don’t you want us to be your friends?”

I looked at Miss White and said I was fine, and she smiled and said okay and walked back to her desk, but she kept glancing back at me with her face all worried.

About a second later, without crossing the room, the monster who had spoken to me appeared beside me and told me his name was Ruen. He said I’d better sit down otherwise Miss White would send me to talk to someone called A Psychiatrist. And that, Ruen assured me, would not involve anything fun, like acting or telling jokes or drawing pictures of skeletons.

Ruen knew my favorite hobbies so I knew there was something strange going on here. Miss White kept looking at me like she was very worried as she continued her lesson on how to stick a needle through a frozen balloon and why this was an important scientific experiment. I sat down and said nothing about the monsters.

Ruen has explained many things to me about who he is and what he does, but never about why I can see him when no one else can. I think we’re friends. Only, what Ruen has asked me to do makes me think he’s not my friend at all. He wants me to do something very bad.

He wants me to kill someone.

Customer Reviews