Ten-year-old Jack Peter has Asperger’s which is compounded by an extreme case of agoraphobia. He cannot leave the house for fear that monsters will get him – which makes him a virtual prisoner in his home (a beautifully described cottage right on the ocean in Maine). His parents are at wits end with how to deal with his disorder mostly because they disagree on courses of action. Jack Peter is fortunate in one regard, he has a close friend in ten-year-old Nick who is the child of family friends.
Without going too much into the story, Jack Peter has a knack for drawing monsters before other people see them – and see them they do (Nick, and Jack’s mom and dad are the prime witnesses). Needless to say, the plot becomes exciting with the appearance of the monsters, not to mention the introduction of terrific supporting characters, a blizzard, and a recounting of a historic shipwreck right off the coast from the family’s house.
The novel’s strengths are the portrayal of Jack Peter and Nick. These are unusual boys and they drive the story. Another key element is the gothic-like atmosphere. There is a weighty sense of dread the runs the entire length of the novel. Relatedly, the haunting elements are nicely written and the author keeps you on edge with his unusual narrative. One major negative is the depiction of the parents. They are both unlikable and their decision making is downright idiotic. This is a fairly significant drawback given the major role they play in the book. Given the cleverness of the plot, it is a shame that Mr. Donohue could not portray more interesting and intelligent adults. Still, despite this issue, this is a great horror read and I highly recommend it.