Published by Random House on 13 August 2013
Genres: Contemporary, Paranormal
Source: My copy
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I first met my demon the morning that Mum said Dad had gone.
Alex Connolly is ten years old, likes onions on toast, and can balance on the back legs of his chair for fourteen minutes. His best friend is a 9000-year-old demon called Ruen. When his depressive mother attempts suicide yet again, Alex meets child psychiatrist Anya. Still bearing the scars of her own daughter’s battle with schizophrenia, Anya fears for Alex’s mental health and attempts to convince him that Ruen doesn’t exist. But as she runs out of medical proof for many of Alex’s claims, she is faced with a question: does Alex suffer from schizophrenia, or can he really see demons?
Wow, what a spellbinding book! I honestly couldn’t put it down. I was so invested in the characters and really cared about how their stories would end.
This is a chillingly dark tale revolving around a ten-year-old boy named Alex who claims to see demons, and the psychiatrist, Anya, who is treating him. Alex is haunted by one demon in particular, the sinister Ruen; a Harrower (upper level demon) who is thousands of years old. Although Alex perceives Ruen as his friend, it is pretty clear from the start that the demon does not have good intentions for Alex.
Anya, meanwhile, is grappling with a tragic event from her own past, and has to learn to deal with demons of her own before aiding Alex in exercising his.
The novel delves into the darkness of serious mental illness, and examines the unsatisfactory way society deals with it. It seems Jess-Cooke is criticizing a social systems that does not adequately deal with people on the fringe. Alex comes from a very low socio-economic background and lives with his mother in appalling housing conditions.
I enjoyed the way the chapters alternate between Alex’s and Anya’s stories. It gives the reader a glimpse into both worlds. I found myself, from the onset, willing people to believe poor Alex. He is so vulnerable and lovable; I just wanted to protect him from the evil lurking in the shadows.
The ending left me reeling. It is not often that an ending of a novel surprises me, and although I expected some kind of twist, I didn’t see this one coming.
At the novel’s core is how one traumatic event can impact the rest of a life, physically, emotionally and psychologically. An absolutely terrific read; horrific and haunting in places, but gentle and hopeful in others.
– Be prepared for one hell of a read.