The Boy Who Killed Demons by Dave Zeltserman
|The Boy Who Killed Demons by Dave Zeltserman|
|Reviewer: Ani Johnson|
|Summary: An adult/YA cross over novel that mixes smiles with those behind the sofa moments of foreboding; a kind of darker Adrian Mole aged 15-and-a-half with horror and added demons.|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 304||Date: April 2015|
|Publisher: Duckworth & Co|
Henry Dudlow is 15½ and has had a hidden gift since he was 13. It was then he discovered that some people are in fact demons and – what's worse - he can see their real demonic form. How, after two years of knowing what Mr Hanley a couple of doors down is really like and hearing that children are going missing under under the most bizarre circumstances, it's time to do something about it.
This is the 14th novel from American author Dave Zeltserman who specialises in crime noir, mystery and horror (separately and in combinations). He also has a mantelpiece full of accolades. For instance Small Crimes was dobbed one of the best books of 2008 by the Washington Post; a paper that knows something about uncovering crime! Then Monster: A Tale of Frankenstein appeared on Booklist's top ten horror books for 2013. Indeed, this is a chap who knows how to scare, as we discover again this time out. The scares sneak up on us in The Boy Who...' though.
It begins as a much darker but as much fun American Adrian Mole at 15+. Henry lets us into his mind through his diary and sightings of demons, as well as the story to date. Intertwined with this are comments about food, the school bully, his friends and a certain young lady. Oh yes, there is a type of Pandora to Henry's Adrian and she's... How shall I put this? That's it, she's more accessible.
There are also his parents; very high achieving, small town America, what-will-the-neighbours-think parents who would freak completely if they discovered what some of the neighbours actually may be thinking! The clever thing is that no matter what our age, whether mid-teens (this working well as a YA for 14-years+) or mid-aged, we side with Henry against them every time.
That's the trick in the writing: Henry does some awful (and bloody) things in the name of saving the world from Mr Hawley and his ilk, but we back him to the hilt. The only question in our mind is does he really see demons or is he ill? The question is answered before the end but till then it could go either way.
Talking of end, Dave ramps up the tension and turns dark into darker over the last quarter, leaving us breathless and behind a cushion. (Ok, the sudden need to be behind soft furnishings may just be me!)
I could mumble on in a reviewerish way about allegories and all of us as teens having felt that we live in an alien world where no one understands and initiating crusades no one else seems to feel the same intensity about etc. But I won't. It works brilliantly as a great story that can be as far-fetched as horror is allowed to be in places as Dave vies with the best for our attention – and wins. Stephen King comparisons abound but I'll let you be the judge of that. Just don't believe that it's over till you've read the author notes at the end. Nice addendum Mr Z!
(Thank you so much Duckworth & Co for providing us with a copy for review.)
Further Reading: If you enjoy the sort of diary that can scare the goose bumps off your skin, we heartily recommend The String Diaries by Stephen Lloyd Jones.
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