Lawyer, mother, avid reader. Game host extraordinaire! Partner in crime to Obsidian Black Plague! My bookish weaknesses include classics, fantasy, YA, and agreeing to read more books than is even remotely possible.
I had zero expectations of this book going in, except that it would be scary. You all know that I don't like scary (because I'm totally chickenshit), so I actually read the book in spite of that, not because of that.
Which is good, because it isn't really scary. There is a bit of suspense, but I would use the word "puzzling" over the word scary. It's not a traditional mystery, either. There's just a puzzle at the center of it - an enigma.
The book is about Jip or JP or Jack Peter, as the boy who drew monsters is named. He is a child of ten. The book is narrated by his father Tim, and his mother Holly. Holly is a lawyer, Tim is the primary caregiver, and the family lives in Maine. Jip's best friend - his only friend - is Nick, a boy who is his age, and with whom he has been friends since infancy.
As you can see, I'm giving the book three and a half stars - a slightly above average rating. In some ways, the book worked for me. In others, it didn't.
What worked for me: I really liked Nick a lot - he rang very true to me, and I was convinced by him. I enjoyed the setting. The writing is clean, and engaging, if not lyrical.
What didn't really work for me: I am not so sure about Jip, though. In some ways, I think that the author would have been better off not naming Jip's diagnosis (although it is only named from the perspective of the parents) because there were a lot of inconsistencies built into his character, and his parents, frankly, didn't really ring true to me. Tim did, more than Holly, but her level of disengagement with her family and son was neither appealing nor very convincing.
And the ending (spoiler free): This is one of those books where the journey isn't the point. The end is the point, and whether or not the author pulled off the end is critical to the success of the book. And I'm going to give Donohue credit - I feel like he did pull off his ending. The reveal was well-handled. He quit at the right point to leave us with a sense of wonder and a bit of lingering unease. Not all of the questions were answered, which made sense given the answers that we did got. This isn't a cliff-hanger, and I can't see a sequel in the future. I see The Boy Who Drew Monsters as a true standalone.
So, I recommend it, but with some reservations. Don't go into it looking for horror - it's psychologically interesting with a hint of supernatural. But it isn't that scary and it is fundamentally a story about families and relationships and friendship and the burdens of those three things - and if I say it isn't that scary, well, draw your own conclusions. A reader who is looking for the building of a sense of dread will be disappointed.