Review: The Boy Who Drew Monsters


Title: The Boy Who Drew Monsters

Author: Keith Donohue

Publisher: Picador

Publication Date: October 7, 2014

Goodreads / Author’s website / Author’s twitter

So I actually read this book ages ago and just got too busy to write a review. But I genuinely loved it and wanted to give it a nice shout out, so here we are! Especially because this is one of the few “adult” books I’ve read recently.

A brief run-down from the author’s website:

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.

It’s rare that there’s a book that genuinely terrifies me. But the images that Donohue paints – the monsters in the dark, and in the light as well – left me tempted to sleep with the light on, just for a rough approximation at comfort. Donohue’s writing style is descriptive and ocean-like – something about it made me feel like I was floating along the waves, watching the story play out on the shore. Yet there are these juxtaposed moments of intense action, violence, passion, etc., that kick-started my adrenaline and kept me from falling into too much of a pattern.

It’s also rare for me to find a book where the “plot twist” is actually any kind of twist at all. Usually, it’s more like a half-hearted flip-flop. That being said, I couldn’t believe the ending of this book. The last chapter completely threw me for a loop, and everything fell into place, and I hated myself for not seeing it coming – but you know what? I never would have seen it coming, even had I known that, oh yeah, there’s going to be a major surprise here. So applause to Keith Donohue for that.

The only negatives I have to say are that there’s one plot line that doesn’t interest me in the slightest, and also, one of the main characters, Jack’s mother, is so unlikable that I wanted to repeatedly punch her in the face. And I don’t know that her unlike-ability was wholly intentional.

But overall, I immensely enjoyed this read. The Boy Who Drew Monsters is a story that is frightening not because it could happen to you – but because it might already be happening; not because it leaves questions unanswered – but because there are no answers to be had. Psychologically, this was one of the most compelling books I’ve read in years. This book will unsettle you, but if you’re like me, you’ll probably love it.

4 out of 5 stars.



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