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The Boy Who Drew Monsters By Keith Donohue

Updated on August 9, 2018
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An avid book nerd, Jennifer Branton loves to share her favorite book finds with her readers.

A Secret World

On the Autism Spectrum, Jack Peter, or Jip as his father lovingly calls him, has always depended on his drawing to express those words that don't come easy to him. There are things that Jack can't explain to his parents, especially his sudden agoraphobia, that has taken place since in the last three years, in Keith Donahue's The Boy Who Drew Monsters.

Jack and his neighbor friend, Nick were playing by the water one afternoon years ago, remembers Jack's parents Holly and Tim when suddenly there was a commotion as both boys were swept under the water.

Ever since Jack has been housebound of his own choosing, and he has shown a fear of Nick coming over. Nick doesn't want much to do with Jack either, feeling that his own parents force the friendship on the boys to make up for the strain between the two couples in the recent years.

As Jack grows more reclusive, his recent obsession is drawing monstrous creatures in his sketchbooks. His behavior is becoming more violent as well and he often attacks when his parents touch him without his permission.

Something is going on with Jack, but his parents think the fix will be to take in Nick over the Christmas holidays as his own family is going on a cruise without him. Thinking the two kids will have fun and Jack will forget his recent bouts of violent behavior and monsters, Nick is dropped off.

Before too long, Tim starts to experience weird things inside and outside of the home, even experiencing a loss of time as he chases a white wolf like creature on the outside of the house and comes home with scratches. Holly also begins to see creatures walking on the walls, hearing noises, and Nick is warned about bodies in the closet.

Holly decides to find the nearest church.

Ever since nearly drowning, Jack has been selective about going outside, only taking trips to the doctor. Jack is also strange about being around his own friend by proxy, a neighbor boy that his parents often babysit for.

What Kind Of Stupid Loses A Baby

Three years before, Holly and Tim were expecting a new baby. Even though Jack, not yet diagnosed seemed to be progressing slower than that of her dear friend's child, Nick of the same age. Holly thinks a new sibling will be good for Jack and help bring him out of his Autism bubble.

The more they introduce the idea of having a new sibling, maybe even a sister- Jack becomes eventually excited about the new baby and even kind of proud at the notion of someone else to play with.

Suddenly one night his mother is sent to the hospital, and his father has to sit him down and explain that his parents' had "lost the baby." It had been a boy, they said and he had gone onto heaven, and wouldn't come home with them.

Jack tried to explain this to Nick who was too young to understand as well and remarked "What kind of stupid loses a baby?" The boys get into a fight on the beach near their home, pushing each other into the water, holding him down, Nick has the advantage, then Jack, both pulling at each other until they are both pulled under.

Unconscious, both boys are saved.

Ever since, Jack has become a recluse and seems afraid of Nick when he is sent over to play.

Nick doesn't want to be there either but neither set of adults sense the disconnect of the forced friendship or understand what happened on that day until an older woman at the church Holly has been attending has been making appointments to talk to Jack, explaining she too has Autism, and that she understands what it is like to experience the world in a different way. She sees ghosts, she tells Jack.

Jack explains to the woman that he creates monsters. That is a way of putting it.

He sees things in his head- awful bloody, scary things and draws what he can't talk about and then it becomes real.

It is these monster that Holly and Tim are experiencing.

Jack draws monsters. Scary, bloody, awful things and they are birthed into the world from his pencil. His sketchbooks contain everything from the white dog that has haunted the neighborhood, to the skeletal hand found in the hole on the beach, and the baby monsters clinging to the walls of the house. Jack understands his gift, and has been using it for longer than anyone has ever known

The Drawings Become Real

Haunted by the creatures that Jack has created, Tim is lead into the snowy wilderness chasing what appears to be a great white dog, and a crazed man that scratches at the windows.

Coming back bloodied and with no recollection of where he was for the last few hours, Tim feels their house is haunted. Holly often awakes to nightmares of creatures herself and not long after Jack draws a hand coming out of the sand in the backyard, the police are summoned as the family discovers a huge hole with a arm bone probably over a decade old in the yard.

The police conclude it is most likely something that washed up on shore and collect the bone without much of an investigation.

Nothing more is thought of until the bone and the dogs body recovered by the police go missing for evidence.


The bone turns to ash in the police evidence locker on day with no explanation to its condition.

The Boys Are Missing

Like Tim that night, Holly can't find the boys.

It seems impractical that they would be outside in the snow, especially since Jack has a phobia of the outside for the last three years. She searches everywhere for them as the monster problem has gotten worse in the house over the last few nights.

Constantly hearing noises and seeing things move around outside the windows, most recently the eerie cries of a child that fill the night, Holly is more than frightened. She thinks about her friends at the church and their story about the waterlogged ghosts that suffered drowning when a ship had gone under decades before and it makes her think of the time that Jack was in the water- the last time he willingly went outside.

Would the boys have gone back near the water?


The Truth About Nick

Nick is hospitalized in a coma and Holly and Tim bring Jack to say that he is sorry for the things that have happened.

Holly had found out about the secret that her son holds so close.

Going into Jack's room, she found sketchbooks full of pictures that resembled everything that has happened to the family in the last few nights. Jack draws the things he sees in his head and then they come to life somehow.

The monsters were all of Jack's creation and tearing up his pictures or setting them on fire, frees the creation from being in the world of the living.

Then there is the matter of all the pictures of Nick.

"I drew them since he drown," Jack explains to Holly of his volumes full of pictures of Nick playing, Nick watching TV, Nick sleeping.

"But how honey, he's only been in the hospital a few days." Holly tries to understand how so many drawings could have been created.

"No since the first time he drown..."

Explaining everything to his mother the best he could, Jack tells his version of the fight on that chilling day when Nick held him under the water. The truth, Jack explains is that Nick never survived that day and that to keep him as part of the world, Jack was forced to draw Nick every time he could get a chance or he too would fade like the monsters.

The only way to keep Nick alive was to keep drawing him over and over.

So Holly sets Jack up with paper and pencils and instructs him to keep drawing the boy, over and over again.

The Boy Who Drew Monsters is a creepy take on the modern horror story, especially made so with the addition of a special needs child using his self expression to not only bring negative forces but to know that it was the only way to keep Nick from dying for good even if it was a fictional version of the boy that he feared as he pulled this Nick over from another dimension.


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