The Boy Who Drew MonstersThe Boy Who Drew Monsters by Keith Donohue
My rating: 3/5 cats
One StarOne StarOne Star

3.5 spooky stars cats.

here’s a little backstory about me and the books of keith donohue. when The Stolen Child came out, i read the flap and thought “ooooh, that sounds amazing!” and i bought it. in hardcover. when Angels of Destruction came out, i did the same thing. when Centuries of June came out, i did the same thing. and i just never got around to actually reading any of them. when i saw this one on netgalley i thought “aha! i will request it and then i will be forced to read it because of the tick tock of the netgalley clock,” which is somehow more of a commitment than having spent $75 on these unread books. and i waited and waited for approval, and then BEA happened and i ended up snagging a copy while i was there, only to go home and find my netgalley approval waiting for me, which meant that now i had even more of a push to read it.

so i can’t tell you how this one stacks up against his other books, but i can tell you how it stacks up against what i imagined his books would be like, and overall my assessment is “good but not mind-blowing.” it never gave me that brain-shudder that i was looking for, but it’s still a good, spooky story.

it’s in the same family as the dark fabulist/literary ghost stories of jonathan carroll or jeffrey ford, with the psychological suspense and ambiguity of The Turn of the Screw, but without all that tedious restraint. it’s about a ten-year-old autistic boy named jack; aka jack peter, j.p., or jip, whose various appellations are rotated as frequently as in the same paragraph, which tic i personally found a little irritating, but no biggie.

three years ago, jack (which is the only name i am going to use in this review, for clarity) nearly drowned in the ocean while swimming with his friend nick, and since then, he has refused to leave the house, throwing a fit on those occasions when he is forced to go to the doctor, and retreating for long stretches into his mind. he is not keen on being touched, and although nick still comes over to play, where they engage in intense bursts of obsessive interests, jack’s only creative outlet is drawing. and mostly what he draws are monsters – the same monsters that he claims are waiting to get him if he steps outside.

jack and nick’s parents were friends before the boys were born, although they have drifted apart due to the differences in their lives’ paths – nick’s parents are boozy and free, while jack’s parents have been worn down by the restrictions jack’s condition has put on them. raising a child who doesn’t respond to a mother’s caresses is hard enough, but compounded with his agoraphobia means that one of them always has to stay behind in the house with him, which leads to financial difficulties and also creates a powderkeg of claustrophobia. there’s some jealousy and resentment bubbling under the surface of the couples’ interactions, along with some still-tender backstory, and jack’s parents see in nick the son that could have been.

add monsters to this mix, and things are going to get tricky.

gradually, strange things start to happen. jack’s father sees what he believes to be a naked man in the middle of the road on a frigid maine night. jack’s mother hears inexplicable pounding noises in the dead of night. icy patches form on the stairs inside the house. bones are found on their property. a giant white wolflike dog is seen in the neighborhood.

as these things are occurring, jack’s artistic output increases, and nick begins to notice a correlation between the images jack is drawing and the apparitions. but is jack drawing what he sees, or is there a more frightening connection?

donohue does a really good job with the pacing. it’s a nice steady and slow start, while we get our bearings and our character development, and where the uncanny elements are seen out of the corner of the reader’s eye, but then they become more and more present, escalating in intensity and frequency as the story progresses.

everything comes to a rolling boil when nick’s parents go off on a cruise and leave him behind to stay with jack’s family during a spectacular blizzard, leading to an ending i had mostly predicted, but it was still satisfying and much more touchingly-written than i had anticipated.

a few little things frustrated me. i never understand why it often takes SO LONG in horror books and movies for people to get to the point where they can admit that weird shit is happening. jack’s dad = seeing and hearing weird shit. jack’s mom = seeing and hearing weird shit. so why would they refuse to believe the others’ account of weird shit? and yet both are skeptical of each other, despite their own experiences. i understand denial, but there comes a point where you really should be having that conversation.

and i read the arc, so maybe things will change in the finished version, but there were several instances where the characters seemed to backtrack – having revelations that i thought had already been established, which confused me, but it was just a minor stumble.

the book is – dare i say? – haunting, and while it didn’t change my life or anything, i definitely still want to read all those hardcovers i grabbed so long ago, because he knows how to tell a story, and i want to see what else he’s got in him.

read my reviews on goodreads

Click to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Amazon Disclaimer is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon properties including but not limited to,, or,,, or


this feels gauche, but when i announced i was starting a blog, everyone assured me this is a thing that is done. i’m not on facebook, i’ve never had a cellphone or listened to a podcast; so many common experiences of modern life are foreign to me, but i’m certainly struggling financially, so if this is how the world works now, i’d be foolish to pass it up. any support will be received with equal parts gratitude and bewilderment.

To Top