I love a good old-fashioned tale about demonic possession. Really, who doesn’t? When I stumbled upon The Boy Who Could See Demons, I was anticipating something along the lines of The Exorcist meets The Sixth Sense. In a way, this is exactly what Jess-Cooke delivers. Her novel centers around ten-year-old Alex Broccoli (tee-hee), a boy habitually visited by his best friend Ruen, who also happens to be a demon. Alex finds himself under the care of Dr. Anya Molokova, a child psychiatrist with her own demons (you see what I did there?) SPOILERS AHEAD.
This could have been an amazing book. In truth, it was an amazing book right up until the end. The Sixth Sense started this trend in creating the perfect twist of an ending. The whole concept of a child psychiatrist/psychologist assisting a young boy with what may or may not be psychological problems is obviously a shared premise between the two, but Jess-Cooke takes the similarities too far. This is why. About 3/4 of the way through, I found myself thinking that it would be such a Sixth-Sensey copout if Alex was not real. Guess what? Alex was not real. Anya’s schizophrenic daughter committed suicide four years before, and Anya is still struggling to overcome the death. Apparently, she channeled her coping into the creation of a boy and his demon. What? Seriously?
There were so many directions Jess-Cooke could have taken this, and the direction she chose was the wrong one. The Boy Who Could See Demons is truly compelling throughout the majority of the novel. Alex is a likable and sympathetic character, and I was pretty convinced that Ruen was more than a psychological coping device. The strange backstory about Alex’s father was somewhat choppy and confusing, but I was prepared to overlook that. I was ready to be blown away by the ending. Instead, I was pissed. This isn’t a modern day retelling of The Exorcist. This is a cheap rip-off of the best aspects of The Sixth Sense and Shutter Island. Stealing other people’s twists is just wrong. What kind of person are you, Carolyn Jess-Cooke? Who does that?
As Jess-Cooke ultimately resorted to petty thievery to complete The Boy Who Could See Demons, I cannot condone this novel. I will admit that it was solid and enjoyable, but the ending completely robs it of credibility. Shame on you, Carolyn Jess-Cooke.