Child psychologist Dr. Anya Molokova has moved back to her hometown of Dublin, Ireland and works at MacNeice House, an adolescent mental health treatment center. She is asked to meet and assess Alex Connolly, a 10-year-old whose mother is hospitalized due to her latest suicide attempt. Alex has been self-harming, disruptive, and claims his imaginary friend, Ruen, is a demon and the one making him act the way he does. Anya has seen this behavior before and believes it is early on set schizophrenia, which Anya witnessed in her own daughter Poppy. While assessing and observing Alex, Anya starts to see strange things and she begins to question her diagnosis, making her wonder if Ruen is really real. The true diagnosis turns out to be shocking and not what Anya expected at all.
Wow. I could not put this book down, reading it in two days. The Boy Who Could See Demons was compelling, well written, and made me want to keep reading to find out what was going to happen. I found both main characters, Anya and Alex, easy to relate to, even though I have no personal experience with either psychology or schizophrenia. The pace of the book was very fast but not distracting. Anya’s story about her own daughter’s fight with schizophrenia was emotional and heart-breaking, making her desire to help Alex all the more difficult.
Alex’s demon, Ruen, at times seemed so real I couldn’t help thinking that Alex wasn’t imagining things. Alex is a very grown up 10-year-old, having to deal with his unstable mother almost his entire life, and that made his interactions with Anya as well as Ruen all the more believable. Ruen is what one would imagine a demon to be – manipulative, cruel, and deceptive. Ruen makes Alex ask questions of Anya that would be impossible for Alex to come up on his own, thus enveloping Anya into Ruen’s dastardly plans. To say too much more would give too much of the story away.
The very end of the book takes a wholly unexpected turn that I absolutely did not see coming. This ending, however, did not make me mad and I thought it made sense. After reading this book I did some searching of other reviews to read what others thought of it. I found out that the UK version of this book, which was the original publication, is different from the US version. Needless to say this discovery drove me batty. I now need to pick up a copy of the UK version so I can read the author’s original intent and ending to see how things differ.
I thoroughly enjoyed this book and would recommend it to many others to read, though it may not appeal to everyone. Schizophrenia is not a light topic and The Boy Who Could See Demons approached it in a very real manner. This is a fiction book but I kept thinking to myself it could easily be an account of a real person. The imagery was vivid and I thought the author wrote about the subject manner with a great amount of respect and care.