Review: “The Boy Who Drew Monsters” by Keith Donohue

Disclosure: This book was provided to me by NetGalley free of charge in return for an honest and unbiased review. This book is scheduled to be released on October 7, 2014 by Picador.

When I first started reading “The Boy Who Drew Monsters”, I was instantly transported back to my childhood.  I was a slightly odd kid, with a love of everything horror.  Stephen King, Dean Koontz, Christopher Pike – I just couldn’t get enough.  Keith Donohue’s new novel brings me back to those authors of my youth.  Make no mistake, this is not meant as a compliment.  On the whole, “The Boy Who Drew Monsters” feels dated, akin to some schlocky horror paperback from the 1980’s.

Ten-year-old Jack Peter, a unique boy diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome, hasn’t left the house since an accident in which he almost drowned.  He spends his time flitting from interest to interest.  When Jack Peter begins to obsess over drawing, though, strange things begin to happen in his home and to his family.

I really enjoyed the premise of “The Boy Who Drew Monsters”.  There was enough atmosphere and general eeriness throughout the book to keep me reading to the end.  The biggest downfall with Donohue’s novel, however, is its characters – especially Jack Peter’s parents and the parents of his best (read only) friend Nick. Disorder aside, Jack Peter is a brat; his mother is distant, unloving and cold, and his father is clueless.  Furthermore, Nick’s parents are portrayed as stereotypical, farcical drunks from the 70’s.  Seriously, try to read this book and NOT picture Nick’s dad in a leisure suit.  The only character I remotely cared about was Nick.

Donohue keeps you guessing until the end.  Along the way, he throws in a bunch of useless red herrings to keep you from guessing what’s really going on.  Since they’re never fully explained, the novel feels incomplete after the ending’s big reveal – and what a reveal it is!  I think the ending of “The Boy Who Drew Monsters” is pretty brilliant, although, it leaves you with more questions than it does answers.

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