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The Boy Who Drew Monsters: A Novel Hardcover – October 7, 2014
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“Clearly, we are in the territory of the wholehearted, up-for-anything gothic, which even as it undertakes a melancholic exploration of the lost, forlorn and bereft operates with the volume cranked and the plot on greased wheels. As a writer, Donohue always seems to know exactly what he is doing….and in The Boy Who Drew Monsters he twists the screw on Jack with the finesse of an expert. It is a pleasure to watch him glide along, pulling one squirming rabbit after another from his copious hat.” ―Peter Straub, The Washington Post
“Ingenious… Donohue unspools his simple story patiently, delivering jolts when necessary, but mostly concentrating on the stress generated in a family with an unhappy child. It's a modest novel, elegantly worked, with a nice chilly twist at the end.” ―Terrence Rafferty, The New York Times Book Review
“[A] chilling Christmastime horror yarn… Like a child's attention, the book may seem to wander in its final third before ultimately revealing itself to have been horribly on point all along.” ―Entertainment Weekly
“A classically hypnotic horror story… The Boy Who Drew Monsters dissolves notions of reality and fiction and leaves behind an eerie narrative about what haunting aberrations might lurk just outside our peripheral vision.” ―Tiffany Gibert, Time Out (New York)
“The Boy Who Drew Monsters is a masterfully controlled example of the literary horror genre. The setting is vividly Gothic and evocative, and Donohue builds tension and fear in that strange, snowbound world at an exquisitely slow pace.” ―Richmond Times-Dispatch
“This novel ranks with the best of modern-day supernatural thrillers.” ―Bookreporter
“The novel is a pressure cooker, an airtight room with limited oxygen, and an astute study of the mysterious demons that loss breeds…. The book's final twist--and by final I mean, like, in the very last sentence--is satisfying in a Sixth Sense kind of way, but the manner in which Donohue keeps us in the dark until then is the novel's real reward.” ―Popular Mechanics
“This story is genuinely, deeply frightening....The Boy Who Drew Monsters is dazzlingly electrifying, full of portending dread, and genuine creepy scares. Never have I have been so unnerved by a novel, at least in some time, and as a literary horror novel, this succeeds on just about every level.” ―PopMatters
“Look out, Ichabod Crane. Donohue delivers a new gothic literary horror tome just in time for Halloween…. Let's just say these spirits make the headless horseman look like a friendly guy.” ―New York Post (Required Reading)
“Donohue has created the slow, clicking, stomach-tightening anticipation of a roller coaster on the rise. He draws readers in with creative prose that outlines images that are both innocent and creepy.” ―Portland Press Herald
“With a mind-bending final twist, The Boy Who Drew Monsters--much in the tradition of the classic The Turn of the Screw--will leave readers shaking in their boots.” ―Bookpage
“Donohue's (The Stolen Child, 2006, etc.) writing is as evocative as Jack Peter's drawings, both startling and heavy with emotion...A sterling example of the new breed of horror: unnerving and internal with just the right number of bumps in the night.” ―Kirkus Reviews
“The ghostly influence of Henry James's The Turn of the Screw haunts this chilling novel by Donohue (The Stolen Child)… Donohue is an adept creator of atmosphere… A brisk and winningly creepy narrative.” ―Publishers Weekly
“The novel unfolds through rich prose and a deeply imagined story. The final page--the final sentence, really--comes as a clever surprise, but one that resonates soundly. Fans of Donohue's first novel, The Stolen Child, will be pleased. Also recommended for readers of Joe Hill.” ―Library Journal
“It will raise the hairs on the back of your neck. Keith Donohue manages to peer into the darkest nightmares of childhood and beckon forth the monsters from the closet...Atmospheric and haunting. The Boy Who Drew Monsters is all the more chilling because it is grounded in real family life, with its heartbreaks and tenderness.” ―Eowyn Ivey, New York Times bestselling author of The Snow Child
“Both an eerie, engrossing tale of the supernatural, with a sting in its tale, and a superb evocation of troubled youth. The Boy Who Drew Monsters reminds us that there is no rage like the rage of children...” ―John Connolly, New York Times bestselling author of The Book of Lost Things and The Wolf in Winter
“An eerie, unsettling novel about the monsters outside your door...and the ones inside all of us. Donohue fills his pages with intimacy and dread, and whips up an ending that'll take your breath away.” ―Christopher Golden, #1 New York Times bestselling author of Snowblind
“There are no monsters. That's what Jack Peter's parents tell him, and what I kept telling myself as I got sucked deeper and deeper into this delectably chilling novel. But still, as I read, I found myself looking out the window at shadows moving in the darkness, until finally I had to get up and flip on every light switch in the house. The Boy Who Drew Monsters left me breathless and reeling, questioning the line between what is real and what is imagined -- and realizing that the meeting of the two is where true terror dwells.” ―Jennifer McMahon, New York Times bestselling author of The Winter People
“Keith Donohue has crafted a brooding, Serlingesque tale of tragedy, heartbreak, and the things that go bump in the night. Creepy, nostalgic, and understated, The Boy Who Drew Monsters is a tale meant for the dark of night, but most will want to enjoy it with all of the lights on.” ―C. Robert Cargill, author of Dreams and Shadows
“Keith Donohue evokes the otherworldly with humor and the ordinary with wonder.” ―Audrey Niffenegger, author of The Time Traveler's Wife on Keith Donohue
“Utterly absorbing...A luminous and thrilling novel about our humanity.” ―The Washington Post on The Stolen Child
“A wonderful, fantasy-laden debut...So spare and unsentimental that it's impossible not to be moved.” ―Newsweek on The Stolen Child
About the Author
Keith Donohue is the national bestselling author of the novels The Stolen Child, The Angels of Destruction, and Centuries of June. His work has been translated into two dozen languages, and his articles have appeared in The New York Times and The Washington Post, among other publications. A graduate of Duquesne University in Pittsburgh, Donohue also holds a Ph.D. in English from The Catholic University of America. He lives in Maryland.
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Jack Peter's parents are one-dimensional. Donohue gives them lives outside of tending to their son, but those lives don't really connect to the rest of the story or to them. They head in that direction, but stop short. Nick's parents are brought into the mix and even as those lives intertwine, they don't quite fit into the story until possibly the last line of the book where pieces sort of fall into place. But like with the overall tone of the book, not exactly.
Donohue interjects some church personnel, but their sole purpose is to take Jack's mother into a certain thought pattern and a few activities that don't really work and that's simply because the reader is already there without them. They are really superfluous.
The dialogue is stiff, particularly that of Jack Peter's father. I kept asking myself, "Is he connected to this life or not? Does he love his wife or not? Is he invested in his son or not? Is he more invested in Nick, or not?" His behavior is stilted and I kept asking myself if he is always in a trance, drunk, or what? His behavior isn't normal even for someone not engaged in his life. Even at the end I wasn't really sure where he lined up.
My hope that the tension would develop into something more than it did is what kept me reading. But as I closed the book on the last line, spoken by Jack Peter's mother with very little gasping horror, I thought, "Nuts. It's creepy and weird but that's all." It was not as satisfying a read as I had envisioned. That I paid the price for the book that I did was the most horrific thing about it.
Wonderfully enough, TBWDM is a step in the right direction. It might not be perfect or on the same level as SC, but it's a solid read in many ways.
As always, the language is nothing short of gorgeous. Donohue's writing style is amazing. Wonderful rhythms and word choice and sounds, I love it all, devouring each word--and stopping to re-read certain lines and re-examine the imagery. It is, most definitely, my favorite part of Donohue's writing.
The premise, too, is wonderful and creates a tone that's worthy of a Stephen King novel--it's even set in Maine.
The characters work well enough, each with their own personalities and internal and external conflicts, but this is where things start to take a turn. They're not always believable. Even more, much of what's setup for them isn't fully explored.
This is what takes us to the weakest link of the tale, the plot, namely, how everything is wrapped up. Again, the setup is incredible. The first 100+ pages of this are engaging and worthy of a single-sitting read. However, threads keep dangling, and what was first interesting starts to unravel as the characters are so utterly clueless about what's going on around them. I understand that magical elements need a fair amount of disbelief, but it goes to far here--at least to me. And in the end, the story wraps up on a rather weak note.
Again, it's a wonderfully written book on the sentence level, but the plot--like Donohue's last two novels--weakened the experience for me. Still, some faith has been restored, and I will be reading his most recent novel soon enough.