Synopsis: I Am Not a Serial Killer is the story of John Cleaver, a 15-year-old sociopath who works in a mortuary, dreams about death, and thinks he might be turning into a serial killer. He sets strict rules to keep himself “good” and “normal,” but when a real monster shows up in his town he has to let his dark side out in order to stop it–but without his rules to keep him in check, he might be more dangerous than the monster he’s trying to kill.
I Am Not A Serial Killer by Dan Wells is a shift from the type of books that I usually read. I have never seen the TV series Dexter, but I am told this book is very similar. I might have to check out a season of Dexter from the Library to see the similarities.
The main character John Wayne Cleaver (what a name!) is a 15 year old boy who is diagnosed a sociopath. He has a disturbing interest in everything about death and serial killers. So of course he is very interested when a serial killer seems to be rampant in the town in which he resides. John lives in a mortuary and assists his mother and aunt with embalming. He really enjoys being able to assist. His mother is not sure this is really a good idea. I am thinking it isn’t. The details of embalming are well described.
Excerpt: “I’d been helping Mom and Margaret at the mortuary since I was a little boy, back before Dad left. My first job had been cleaning up the chapel: picking up programs, dumping out ash trays, vacuuming the floor, and other odd jobs that a six-year-old could do unassisted. I got bigger jobs as I grew older, but I didn’t get to help with the really cool stuff—embalming—until I was twelve. Embalming was like . . . I don’t know how to describe it. It was like playing with a giant doll, dressing it and bathing it and opening it up to see what was inside. I watched Mom once when I was eight, peeking in through the door to see what the big secret was. When I cut open my teddy bear the next week, I don’t think she made the connection.”
While John communicates very well to the reader that he thinks about killing people and could easily be a serial killer. I found him to be a villain that I had sympathy for. He was struggling with his own demons, but was determined to figure out who was the Clayton Killer. I don’t think he really wanted to kill people, he just felt he was destined to do it. He had rules in place to make sure he kept his “monster” caged. Why would be do that if he wanted to kill people??
The book is fast pace and keeps the reader’s attention. I read the book in a little over a day. I stayed up WAY too late last night to finish it. I did find I was a bit unsettled to sleep initially after finishing it, but no bad dreams! The story does have a bit of a supernatural edge to it that I am not sure I cared for. It did not detract from the story in any major way.
I was surprised in researching this book that in the UK it was published as a Young Adult novel. I did not feel that was the case at all. In the US it was published as Adult Fiction, which I thought was more appropriate due to some of the more gory details. I am not a Serial Killer is the first book in a trilogy by Dan Wells. The next books in the series are, Mr. Monster and I Don’t Want to Kill You. Those are certainly titles that jump out at you!
My Rating: 4/5 – anything that keeps me up in the wee hours of the night has to be good! I would recommend this title to others.