I Am Not A Serial Killer by Dan Wells
My son recommended this book. I believe he heard about it while listening to the Writing Excuses podcast done by Dan Wells and other popular authors. I knew Dan Wells wrote horror novels, which I don’t like, but this was a teen book. How bad could it be?
What a ride! What a horror ride. I should have been better prepared. The premise immediately caught me with a death grip. The main character, John Wayne Cleaver, is convinced he is destined to become serial killer. Believing he was named for the serial killer John Wayne Gacy and not the actor as his mother tells him, even his research topics for school reports show his fascination with serial killers. He isn’t shy about it, either. He tells his therapist everything. He feels he completely understands the mind of a serial killer. I know teens like this, completely convinced they are something they are not once the smallest suggestion is placed. As an adult, it is hard not to scoff at them. Dan Wells captures this from the adult point of view very well through the eyes of the therapist and John’s divorced mother, who happens to be a mortician. It’s all beginning to add up for this kid.
The book begins by showing the inner struggle of John, trying to figure out who he is in the world, frustrated that no one believing he is who he thinks he is. He is completely convinced he is a killer. He builds a set of rules for himself to keep the monster locked within. Of course, everyone, especially adults, think he is just a teenager. And then the killings begin.
It seems there is a serial killer on the loose in their small town. John is the first to recognize it, given his fascination with the serial killer mentality. Of course, he wants to investigate and the rest of the book is off to the races. How can John expose the killer without releasing his inner drive to become a serial killer himself?
Very well written and extremely engaging, this book grabbed me by the throat and wouldn’t let go until the very line on the last page. Dan Wells knows how to write horror and he knows teens. I originally thought my wife would enjoy this book for the psychology of a teenager, but as the descriptions of the murdered bodies started piling up, I knew she would not enjoy the graphic nature. I’m torn between recommending it and being repulsed. I guess that makes it a really good horror novel. I won’t suggest any teen read it because I wouldn’t want those thoughts and descriptions running around in their impressionable minds. But they will. It is just the kind of book they are looking for in their search to identify themselves. I just hope they manage to keep reality and fiction in their proper places.
My son asked we get the next book in the series, Mr. Monster . I may be nuts for this, but it arrives tomorrow.