Book Review: I am Not a Serial Killer

I Am Not A Serial Killer (John Cleaver Books)Just realized today that I had never reviewed this book on my blog, an error I am paying for right now. You don’t want to make Dan Wells angry. Have you read his stuff? Yeah. Definitely keep Dan happy. Anyway–here’s the review from my Goodreads account:

I Am Not a Serial Killer (John Cleaver, #1) I Am Not a Serial Killer (John Cleaver, #1) by Dan Wells

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

There are some books out there that are just plain creepy. Books you read, and you can’t really put down, and you can’t forget months after reading them. I am Not a Serial Killer is one of those books. It’s the story of a young man who is obsessed with serial killers. He knows all about their typical characteristics–what sets them off. How they tick. Why is he so obsessed? Because he recognizes that he has all those characteristics himself. He’s a sociopath, and he knows it. But he’s a sociopath who really just wants to be good and normal. Even though he can’t be. So he makes up a bunch of rules he tries to follow. Simple things, like not torturing animals. You know–the basics.

It doesn’t help that John Cleaver (our protagonist) works in a mortuary for his mother. So he’s around dead bodies all the time. (The first scene that introduces us to John is particularly memorable in a horrific sort of way.) I really enjoyed this book (although I wonder if “enjoy” is the right word). Dan Wells (the author) manages to create a character who is horrifying but sympathetic–not an easy feat to pull off. You find yourself rooting for this kid, not in spite of his sociopathic tendencies, but because of them. Does that make sense? His very drive to be good–even though he can’t be 100% good–is what makes him such a likable character. That and the fact that he has a good sense of humor. That always helps.

The book is thrilling, full of twists and turns, but it’s that character that makes it shine. If John Cleaver had been poorly executed (pardon the pun), then the whole book would have flopped. Instead, the book stands out easily in the crowd of new YA fiction constantly being churned out these days.

Do be aware going into it that this is very much in the horror/fantasy genres, so don’t expect a strict crime procedural throughout the read. That said, the book is also very much a mystery, so I don’t want to discuss the plot too much. Suffice it to say that it’s a page turner and is making quite the name for Dan, a first time author. The second and third books in the trilogy are already out in England–the second (Mr. Monster) is out in America, and the third (I Don’t Want to Kill You) is coming March 29th.

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4 Comments

  • By Debra, March 11, 2011 @ 8:58 pm

    How can a sociopath want to be good?

  • By Bryce's Ramblings, March 11, 2011 @ 9:00 pm

    It’s complex–hard to sum up in a brief review. I feel like Dan managed to pull it off, though–showing how John likes the idea of being good, even if he really can’t understand it himself. He sees descriptions of other people of what it means to be good, and that appeals to him. Some of it is very Dexter-esque, if you’ve seen that tv show.

  • By Debra, March 11, 2011 @ 9:18 pm

    Oh. So he reads about goodness and becomes aware…because normally sociopaths don’t care.
    Does he want to be good so that people will like him? What is he going to get from being good?
    sounds like an interesting book.

  • By Bryce's Ramblings, March 12, 2011 @ 3:01 pm

    I think he wants to be good because mentally, he can see that being good is something other people really desire, and he wants to be like other people. It’s hard to describe–definitely an interesting book. You should check it out. 🙂

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