I found this book while entering some orders for my new library; someone else had picked it out but the blurb sounded interesting enough so I went ahead and put it on hold. When it came in, I was like, I put a hold on what now?, but the cover and the jacket copy were enough to make me put it at the top of my lunch-time reading pile.
This is actually kind of a perfect break-time read, as the chapters are fairly short and provide lots of places to stop when your 15 minutes are up and also the whole book is short so you don’t have time to forget things. On the other hand, it was kind of a terrible break-time read for me, as it suffered from Heart-Shaped Box Syndrome — I put it down at a really super exciting point and came back to find everything gone topsy-turvy and a little bit awful.
First, the good, which is basically the first 90 percent or whatever of the novel. The story is told in diary form and jumps back and forth between two narrators. The first is Alex, the titular boy who has an invisible or imaginary demon “friend” called Ruen who is alternately nice and creepy and horrifying and knows just a little bit too much about things that Alex shouldn’t. The second is Anya, a psychiatrist called in by Alex’s social worker to help him out with his demon issues as well as the issues arising from his mother’s attempted suicide, again.
Alex’s diary entries are pretty fantastically written; he’s a precocious ten-year-old kid and it shows but the writing isn’t nearly as affected as other “kid-written” books I’ve read. I also fell really hard for Alex, who wears suits and ties and just wants a new house for himself and his mom so that they can be happy again. Adorable!
Anya’s narration took longer to get used to, because it’s full of doctor-talk and fancy words and is really stiff and formal, but of course it’s supposed to be and the trading off between her story and Alex’s cuts down on the annoyance factor there. I didn’t get as drawn in to Anya’s backstory, but she unsurprisingly has some personal experience with a kid like Alex that may or may not be clouding her judgement as a psychiatrist.
It’s got a good premise, it knows all the things I like in a multi-narrator story (multiple perspectives of the same event, information being doled out one tantalizing detail at a time and becoming more important to the rest of the story), and it gets quite suspenseful and exciting.
But then, and I will not say what happens but if you are intuitive this is probably all sorts of spoilers, then a Thing happens and another Thing is revealed and the story takes a turn I did not expect but which could probably be expected by other people and I was like are you kidding me. And then I was like, well, okay, maybe this Thing could be an okay Thing, if it were set up a certain way, but it was not set up that way and therefore I am disappointed. It is a Thing that very much makes sense to the story, but making sense and making me happy are unfortunately two different things!
Recommendation: For people who don’t get all bent out of shape about unexpected Things, pretty much. Or people willing not to read the last few chapters and make up their own ending!
an RIP read