The Boy Who Drew Monsters

Keith Donohue. Picador, $26 (272p) ISBN 978-1-250-05715-0
The ghostly influence of Henry James’s The Turn of the Screw haunts this chilling novel by Donohue (The Stolen Child), which follows a troubled boy whose interest in drawing coincides with the appearance of strange creatures around his family’s “dream house” in coastal Maine. When Jack Peter “Jip” Keenan, an agoraphobic, occasionally violent 10-year-old with “high-functioning” Asperger’s, takes up drawing, his parents, Holly and Tim, hope this new creative outlet will help to combat Jip’s introversion. But, over the course of a bleak December, a series of inexplicable phenomena—a beast-like man in the road, the bone of a human arm in the sand, visions of evil babies “scuttling... like silverfish across a page,” etc.—begin to throw the family, as well as Jip’s only friend, Nick, off-balance. With Jip receding further into himself, and his drawings—visually linked to the phenomena—growing darker, Holly seeks the counsel of a mysterious church worker, Miss Tiramaku, who, having Asperger’s herself, believes she knows Jip’s “secret.” Donohue is an adept creator of atmosphere—the nor’easter that frames the novel’s climax is expertly rendered—but repetitive flashbacks and the characters’ underdeveloped emotions detract from what is otherwise a brisk and winningly creepy narrative. (Oct.)
Reviewed on: 08/04/2014
Release date: 10/07/2014
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