The teenage years are hard enough for males, what with suddenly raging hormones, faces that look as though they have been rented out as a holiday home to the Spot family, and the scary prospect of having to learn to shave. For most of us though our teenage years were pretty straightforward. So just be thankful that you are not Henry Dudlow, a fifteen and a half year old teenage boy who is also gifted or cursed with the ability to see the demons that walk amongst us.
What would you do in such a situation? Would you cower under the covers at night waiting for Armageddon to come, or would you take the fight to them?
That's the problem that faces poor old Henry.
Written in a first person narrative, The Boy Who Killed Demons is a fast paced story that draws the reader in with an intriguing and fluid narration from Henry. At times the narration may seem a little bit too polished, and Henry may have a vocabulary and style of writing that far outstrips his tender young years. However once you put aside these thoughts and realise that a first person narrative that is actually written in the true style of a fifteen year old might not be the best reading experience in the world.
Despite this gift of the writing that Henry has, Zeltserman has still managed to create a character that feels like a real 15 year old. Henry is full of the same doubts, fears and relationship problems that face so many other fifteen year olds. In particular the relationship between Henry and his disenfranchised parents is handled very well. A pair of career minded parents they feel as though they have wandered in from the suburb of Stepford, as they are more concerned with social niceties and public conformation than the happiness and well being of their son.
By using a first person diary entry form of narration Zeltserman manages to leave a veil of uncertainty over the validity of what is happening. We are always kept slightly on the back foot, is Henry a reliable narrator, or are we just party to the mental breakdown of a teenage boy? In this way the book covers similar ground to that of Zeltserman's classic book The Caretaker of Lorne Field, but in no way does it feel as though we are treading over the same story.
The narrative is tight and fast paced if a little too fast paced, for example the speed at which Henry can learn new languages is a little bit too fast for my liking. However, it is fully understandable that due to the confines of using a diary as the narrative device time has to be somewhat condensed. As a reader we want a fast paced plot, that moves the story along and by filling this book with lots of entries about Henry learning German would do the story no favour at all.
Once you realise this you become fully immersed into both the story and the plight of our narrator. There are some heartbreaking scenes, in particular those that deal with the breakdown of Henry's burgeoning relationship with the girl of his dream. You'll be egging Henry on screaming "just tell her the truth you fool" as you read these passages.
The Boy WHo Killed Demons is an accomplished and highly entertaining novel. A thrilling read with some genuine moments of heart in your throat tension. Pick up a copy and join Henry in his quest to save us all, or his descent into madness, either way The Boy Who Killed Demons will not disappoint.