Reading group questions for The Boy Who Could See Demons
1. How successfully does the author balance the Anya and Alex chapters?
2. Which is your favourite character and why?
3. How important is the setting of Northern Ireland in the story? What did you learn about it?
4. Can you discuss the presentation of the demonic bits – whether Ruen is real or a product of Alex’s mental illness?
5. How sensitively does this story deal with the subjects of suicide and schizophrenia?
6. Can you comment on the author’s weaving of Hamlet into the story?
7. Did Alex’s ten-year-old voice feel authentic?
8. How emotional did you find Anya and Poppy’s story and how successfully did it complement Alex’s own journey?
9. Can you discuss the role of mothers in the story? You may like to talk about the part that Bev plays as well.
10. How satisfying did you find the ending?
The Guardian Angel’s Journal
Can you discuss the subject of ‘change’? You might like to think about a guardian angel’s role in changing their protected being’s life course, as well as how it would feel to have the ability to change the path of your own life.
In what way is Ruth the same as Margot and in what way does she differ?
What journeys do Ruth and Margot go on and what lessons do they learn along the way?
What role do demons play in the story as a conflicting influence to angels? Do you think Ruth copes well with her demonic encounters?
When Ruth strikes a deal with Grogor to give up her angelic privileges, do you think she does the right thing?
Ruth admits that Margot wasn’t a very good mother and this is one of the things that distresses her most. Where do you think Margot gets it most wrong and how much do you think she is to blame for her actions?
Can you discuss the topics of parenting, relationships and marriage in this story?
Letter from the Author, published in the UK edition of:
The Guardian Angel’s Journal
I feel I should explain the origins of the piece of music at the beginning of this book.
Around the beginning of 2002 I had toyed with an idea I had for a screenplay about two guardian angels. Ultimately I never finished the story (though one day, I might) but a friend had recommended I read The Screwtape Letters by CS Lewis – which is about an older demon writing to a novice, giving him advice on how to tempt – for its take on angels and demons.
I read it – and fell in love. I hatched a plan for a film version that I would write and direct, one that would build a story around the idea behind The Screwtape Letters and began sending tentative emails to the companies and individuals who held the rights to Lewis’ book.
Back then, I did a lot of composing, too, and one night I woke up thinking the radio had been left on. It wasn’t – I just had a new melody in my head, blaring loudly. I fumbled around for a sheet of paper and a pencil and scribbled it down. By the time I worked out which note was which the music faded, but what I managed to jot down is now on the pages of this book. I didn’t exactly know where the music would fit in the film I was writing, but I knew it had something to do with a demon character.
Eventually the response about the rights The Screwtape Letters book hit my inbox – I would never get the rights. Not for love nor money. Still, the ideas and characters I had developed never left me.
When I started writing The Boy Who Could See Demons in May 2010, the demon character from the project I had had to abandon years earlier rose up again in the form of Ruen. I let the characters guide the story, careful not to plan too much in advance. So it shocked and intrigued me when Ruen asked Alex to give Anya a piece of music he had written. In the chapter where Alex is transcribing the music according to Ruen’s instruction, the long-silent piece of music I had written during the night many years before came flooding back – as if a radio had been left on.
I knew it was Ruen’s music.