Humor outweighs the horror in this amusing look at a 15-year-old saving the world.
Henry Dudlow is a typical upper-middle-class teenager. His father is a lawyer, his mother’s a marketing executive, and they live a very comfortable life in Waban, Massachusetts, where “you don’t find too many kids shoveling snow or mowing lawns to earn money.” That was BSD, or Before Seeing Demons. Where most people see normal humans, Henry sees “flaming red skin, yellow eyes, horns, grotesque faces with twisted misshapen noses” all around him. He becomes obsessed with learning the demons’ wicked ways, teaching himself German and Italian to read medieval texts and conducting experiments to track them at various places around Boston. Enter Sally Freeman, a first crush from grade school who moves to Henry’s high school and fans the flames of adolescence to high heat. Henry is now obsessed with both Sally and the demons he’s hunting. Children nearing their fourth birthdays go missing, and Henry makes the connection to a gruesome find in a warehouse in Brooklyn where 39 kids were found caged in some unspeakable ritual. The pattern is repeating in Boston. Henry embraces his calling, drops Sally—temporarily—and commits to saving the children and the world from the gates of hell. The story is told in the form of Henry’s journal, where he keeps a record in case he doesn't survive. Zeltserman manages the voice of a teenager deftly, and the adolescent angst rings true. The demons are almost background to a tale about growing up.
Zeltserman has written an entertaining novel but not one that will keep you from turning off the lights.