John Wayne Cleaver is dangerous, and he knows it.
He's spent his life doing his best not to live up to his potential.
He's obsessed with serial killers, but really doesn't want to become one. So for his own sake, and the safety of those around him, he lives by rigid rules he's written for himself, practicing normal life as if it were a private religion that could save him from damnation.
Dead bodies are normal to John. He likes them, actually. They don't demand or expect the empathy he's unable to offer. Perhaps that's what gives him the objectivity to recognize that there's something different about the body the police have just found behind the Wash-n-Dry Laundromat-and to appreciate what that difference means.
Now, for the first time, John has to confront a danger outside himself, a threat he can't control, a menace to everything and everyone he would love, if only he could.
Dan Wells's debut novel, I Am Not a Serial Killer, is the first volume of a trilogy that will keep you awake and then haunt your dreams.
About the Author
Dan Wells is the author of Mr. Monster and I Don't Want to Kill You. He lives in Orem, Utah, with his wife, Dawn, and four young children.
Read an Excerpt
I Am Not A Serial Killer
By Dan Wells
Tom Doherty AssociatesCopyright © 2010 Dan Wells
All rights reserved.
Mrs. Anderson was dead.
Nothing flashy, just old age — she went to bed one night and never woke up. They say it was a peaceful, dignified way to die, which I suppose is technically true, but the three days it took for someone to realize they hadn't seen her in a while removed most of the dignity from the situation. Her daughter eventually dropped by to check on her and found her corpse three days rotted and stinking like roadkill. And the worst part isn't the rotting, it's the three days — three whole days before anyone cared enough to say, "Wait, where's that old lady that lives down by the canal?" There's not a lot of dignity in that.
But peaceful? Certainly. She died quietly in her sleep on August thirtieth, according to the coroner, which means she died two days before something tore Jeb Jolley's insides out and left him in a puddle behind the Laundromat. We didn't know it at the time, but that made Mrs. Anderson the last person in Clayton County to die of natural causes for almost six months. The Clayton Killer got the rest.
Well, most of them. All but one.
We got Mrs. Anderson's body on Saturday, September second, after the coroner was done with it — or, I guess I should say that my mom and Aunt Margaret got the body, not me. They're the ones who run the mortuary; I'm only fifteen. I'd been in town most of the day, watching the police clean up the mess with Jeb, and came back just as the sun was beginning to go down. I slipped in the back just in case my mom was up front. I didn't really want to see her.
No one was in the back yet, just me and Mrs. Anderson's corpse. It was lying perfectly still on the table, under a blue sheet. It smelled like rotten meat and bug spray, and the lone ventilator fan buzzing loudly overhead wasn't doing much to help. I washed my hands quietly in the sink, wondering how long I had, and gently touched the body. Old skin was my favorite — dry and wrinkled, with a texture like antique paper. The coroner hadn't done much to clean up the body, probably because they were busy with Jeb, but the smell told me that at least they'd thought to kill the bugs. After three days in end-of-summer heat, there had probably been a lot of them.
A woman swung open the door from the front end of the mortuary and came in, looking like a surgeon in her green scrubs and mask. I froze, thinking it was my mother, but the woman just glanced at me and walked to a counter.
"Hi John," she said, collecting some sterile rags. It wasn't my mom at all, it was her sister Margaret — they were twins, and when their faces were masked I could barely tell the difference. Margaret's voice was a little lighter, though, a little more ... energetic. I figured it was because she'd never been married.
"Hi, Margaret." I took a step back.
"Ron's getting lazier," she said, picking up a squirt bottle of Dis-Spray. "He didn't even clean her, just declared natural causes and shipped her over. Mrs. Anderson deserves better than this." She turned to look at me. "You just gonna stand there or are you gonna help me?"
I rolled up my sleeves eagerly and went back to the sink.
"Honestly," she went on, "I don't even know what they do over there at the coroner's office. It's not like they're busy — we can barely stay in business here."
"Jeb Jolley died," I said, drying my hands. "They found him this morning behind the Wash-n-Dry."
"The mechanic?" asked Margaret, her voice dropping lower. "That's terrible. He's younger than I am. What happened?"
"Murdered," I said, and pulled a mask and apron from a hook on the wall. "They thought maybe it was a wild dog, but his guts were kind of in a pile."
"That's terrible," Margaret said again.
"Well, you're the one worried about going out of business," I said. "Two bodies in one weekend is money in the bank."
"Don't even joke like that, John," she said, looking at me sternly. "Death is a sad thing, even when it pays your mortgage. You ready?"
"Hold her arm out."
I grabbed the body's right arm and pulled it straight. Rigor mortis makes a body so stiff you can barely move it, but it only lasts about a day and a half and this one had been dead so long the muscles had all relaxed again. Though the skin was papery, the flesh underneath was soft, like dough. Margaret sprayed the arm with disinfectant and began wiping it gently with a cloth.
Even when the coroner does his job and cleans the body, we always wash it ourselves before we start. Embalming's a long process, with a lot of very precise work, and you need a clean slate to start with.
"It stinks pretty bad," I said.
"She stinks pretty bad," I said. Mom and Margaret were adamant that we be respectful to the deceased, but it seemed a little late at this stage. It wasn't a person anymore, it was just a body. A thing.
"She does smell," said Margaret. "Poor woman. I wish someone had found her sooner." She looked up at the ventilator fan buzzing behind its grate in the ceiling. "Let's hope the motor doesn't burn out on us tonight." Margaret said the same thing before every embalming, like a sacred chant. The fan continued creaking overhead.
"Leg," she said. I moved down to the body's foot and pulled the leg straight while Margaret sprayed it. "Turn your head." I kept my gloved hands on the foot and turned to stare at the wall while Margaret lifted up the sheet to wash the upper thighs. "One good thing that came of this, though," she said, "is that you can bet every widow in the county got a visit today, or is going to get one tomorrow. Everyone who hears about Mrs. Anderson is going to go straight to their own mother, just to make sure. Other leg."
I wanted to say something about how everyone who heard about Jeb would go straight to their auto mechanic, but Margaret never appreciated jokes like that.
We moved around the body, leg to arm, arm to torso, torso to head, until the whole thing was scrubbed and disinfected. The room smelled like death and soap. Margaret tossed the rags in the laundry bin and started gathering the real embalming supplies.
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 ashtrays, 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.
Margaret handed me a wad of cotton, and I held it at the ready while she packed small tufts carefully under the body's eyelids. The eyes were beginning to recede, deflating as they lost moisture, and cotton helped keep the right shape for the viewing. It helped keep the eyelids closed as well, but Margaret always added a bit of sealing cream, just in case, to keep the moisture in and the lid closed.
"Get me the needle gun, will you John?" she asked, and I hurried to put down the cotton and grab the gun from a metal table by the wall. The gun is a long metal tube with two fingerholds on the side, like a hypodermic syringe.
"Can I do it this time?"
"Sure," she said, pulling back the body's cheek and upper lip. "Right here."
I placed the gun gently up against the gums and squeezed, embedding a small needle into the bone. The teeth were long and yellow. We added one more needle to the lower jaw and threaded a wire through them both, then twisted it tight to keep the mouth closed. Margaret smeared sealing cream on a small plastic support, like the peel of an orange wedge, and placed it inside the mouth to hold everything closed.
Once the face was taken care of we arranged the body carefully, straightening the legs and folding the arms across the chest in the classic "I'm dead" pose. Once the formaldehyde gets into the muscles, they seize up and go rigid. You have to set the features first thing, so the family doesn't have a misshapen corpse at the viewing.
"Hold her head," said Margaret, and I obediently put a hand on each side of the corpse's head to keep it steady. Margaret probed with her fingers a bit, just above the right collarbone, and then sliced a long, shallow line in the hollow of the old woman's neck. It's almost bloodless when you cut a corpse. Because the heart's not pumping, there's no blood pressure, and gravity pulls all the blood down into the body's back. Because this one had been dead longer than usual, the chest was limp and empty while the back was nearly purple, like a giant bruise. Margaret reached into the hole with a small metal hook and pulled out two big veins — well, technically an artery and a vein — and looped a string around each one. They were purple and slick, two dark loops that pulled out of the body a few inches, and then slipped back in. Margaret turned to prepare the pump.
Most people don't realize how many different chemicals embalmers use, but the first thing that catches your eye is not how many there are, but how many different colors they are. Each bottle — the formaldehyde, the anticoagulants, the cauterants, the germicides, the conditioners, and others — has its own bright color, like fruit juice. The row of embalming fluids looks like the syrup flavors at a sno-cone stand. Margaret chose her chemicals carefully, like she was choosing ingredients for a soup. Not every body needed every chemical, and figuring out the right recipe for a given corpse was as much an art as a science. While she worked on that, I let go of the head and picked up the scalpel. They didn't always let me make incisions, but if I did it while they weren't watching, I could usually get away with it. I was good at it, too, which helped.
The artery Margaret had pulled out would be used to pump the body full of the chemical cocktail she was making; as they filled the body, the old fluids, like blood and water, would be pushed out the exposed vein and into a drain tube, and from there into the floor. I had been surprised to find out that it all just goes into the sewer system, but really — where else would it go? It's no worse than anything else down there. I held the artery steady and cut slowly across it, careful not to sever it completely. When the hole was ready, I grabbed the canula — a curved metal tube — and slipped the narrow end into the opening. The artery was rubbery, like a thin hose, and covered with tiny fibers of muscle and capillary. I laid the metal tube gently on the chest and made a similar cut in the vein, this time inserting a drain pipe, which connected to a long coil of clear plastic tubing that snaked down into a drain in the floor. I cinched tight the strings Margaret had looped around each vein, sealing them shut.
"That looks good," said Margaret, pushing the pump over to the table. It was on wheels to keep it out of the way, but now it took its place of honor in the center of the room while Margaret connected the main hose to the canula I'd placed in the artery. She studied the seal briefly, nodded at me in approval, and poured the first chemical — a bright orange anticoagulant to break up clots — into the tank on top of the pump. She pushed a button and the pump jerked sleepily to life, syncopated like a real heartbeat, and she watched it carefully while she fiddled with the knobs that controlled pressure and speed. The pressure in the body normalized quickly, and soon dark, thick blood was disappearing into the sewer.
"How's school?" Margaret asked, peeling off a rubber glove to scratch her head.
"It's only been a couple of days," I said. "Not a lot happens in the first week."
"It's the first week of high school, though," said Margaret. "That's pretty exciting, isn't it?"
"Not especially," I said.
The anticoagulant was almost gone, so Margaret poured a bright blue conditioner into the pump to help get the blood vessels ready for the formaldehyde. She sat down. "Meet any new friends?"
"Yeah," I said. "A whole new school moved into town over the summer, so miraculously I'm not stuck with the same people I've known since kindergarten. And of course, they all wanted to make friends with the weird kid. It was pretty sweet."
"You shouldn't make fun of yourself like that," she said.
"Actually, I was making fun of you."
"You shouldn't do that either," said Margaret, and I could tell by her eyes that she was grinning slightly. She stood back up to add more chemicals to the pump. Now that the first two chemicals were on their way through the body, she began mixing the true embalming fluid — a moisturizer and a water softener to keep the tissues from swelling, preservatives and germicides to keep the body in good condition (well, as good as it could be at this point), and dye to give it a rosy, lifelike glow. The key to it all, of course, is formaldehyde, a strong poison that kills everything in the body, hardens the muscles, pickles the organs, and does all of the actual "embalming." Margaret added a hefty dose of formaldehyde, followed by thick green perfume to cover the pungent aroma. The pump tank was a swirly pot of brightly colored goop, like the slush machine at a gas station. Margaret clamped down the lid and ushered me out the back door; the fan wasn't good enough to risk being in the room with that much formaldehyde. It was fully dark outside now, and the town had gone almost silent. I sat on the back step while Margaret leaned against the wall, watching through the open door in case anything went wrong.
"Do you have any homework yet?" she asked.
"I have to read the introductions of most of my textbooks over the weekend, which of course everybody always does, and I have to write an essay for my history class."
Margaret looked at me, trying to be nonchalant, but her lips were pressed tightly together and she started blinking. I knew from long association that this meant something was bothering her.
"Did they assign a topic?" she asked.
I kept my face impassive. "Major figures of American history."
"So ... George Washington? Or maybe Lincoln."
"I already wrote it."
"That's great," she said, not really meaning it. She paused a moment longer, then dropped her pretense. "Do I have to guess, or are you going to tell me which of your psychopaths you wrote it on?"
"They're not 'my' psychopaths."
"Dennis Rader," I said, looking out at the street. "They just caught him a few years ago, so I thought it had a nice 'current events' angle."
"John, Dennis Rader is the BTK killer. He's a murderer. They asked for a great figure, not a —"
"The teacher asked for a major figure, not a great one, so bad guys count," I said. "He even suggested John Wilkes Booth as one of the options."
"There's a big difference between a political assassin and a serial killer."
"I know," I said, looking back at her. "That's why I wrote it."
"You're a really smart kid," said Margaret, "and I mean that. You're probably the only student that's already finished with the essay. But you can't ... it's not normal, John. I was really hoping you'd grow out of this obsession with murderers."
"Not murderers," I said, "serial killers."
"That's the difference between you and the rest of the world, John. We don't see a difference." She went back inside to start work on the body cavity — sucking out all the bile and poison until the body was purified and clean. Staying outside in the dark, I stared up at the sky and waited.
I don't know what I was waiting for.CHAPTER 2
We didn't get Jeb Jolley's body that night, or even soon after, and I spent the next week in breathless anticipation, running home from school every afternoon to see if it had arrived yet. It felt like Christmas. The coroner was keeping the body much longer than usual in order to perform a full autopsy. The Clayton Daily had articles on the death every day, finally confirming on Tuesday that the police suspected murder. Their first impression had been that Jeb was killed by a wild animal, but there were apparently several clues that pointed to something more deliberate. The nature of those clues was not, of course, revealed. It was the most sensational thing to happen in Clayton County in my whole life.
Excerpted from I Am Not A Serial Killer by Dan Wells. Copyright © 2010 Dan Wells. Excerpted by permission of Tom Doherty Associates.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Let's clear up what the book is about at the get-go. It is about a teenage sociopath with psychopathic tendencies who is trying hard to contain the monster within him. Then he comes up against a real monster that at first he believes is a serial killer but that turns out to be a demon that kills for self-preservation. What eventually kills the monster? The same as killed King Kong: love. If you are looking for a strictly serial killer novel, look elsewhere. Try any of these first-rate serial killer novels: Fowles, THE COLLECTOR (a classic, a career launcher); Thompson's THE KILLER INSIDE ME (maybe the ultimate noir novel of all time); Oates, ZOMBIE (terrific, gory and compelling); Valentino, I, KILLER (probing, compassionate romp through the mind of a tormented killer racing to his death). As for I AM NOT A SERIAL KILLER, the first seven chapters are very good. Wells has synthesized the literature on serial killers into a compelling character. He fictionalizes his knowledge well, integrating what is known about sociopaths and psychopathic killers (not to mention mortuary science) into the fabric of the story -- unlike some authors who interrupt the flow of the story to expound on the psychology of the killer. It's the balance of the book that is problematic. From young serial killer trying to control the monster within him, the novel transitions abruptly into a supernatural tale. As you read, you have visions of FRIGHT NIGHT, of a twist on vampire fare. Wells inflicts novelistic whiplash upon you. I've given it three stars for the excellent writing and the really top-rate first seven chapters. But if you prefer the realm of reality, try the other novels I've recommended.
I am an avid reader two to three books a week. Since I was 13 I am now pushing 60. I have read every type of novel written from Erma Bombeck to Charlie Chaplins autobiographay . From Steven King to Ellery Queen and Victoria Holt. The Kent family Chronicles, and Roots to Terry Brooks, Tad Williams, and Michael Jordan. From Ann Rule to Andy Rooney. As well as some self help books the best so far was "Don't Sweat The Small Stuff And It's All Small Stuff" also worth a read is "Raising your children with love and logic" . I have wanted to let you know that I am one of those people who's taste in subject matter is wide and varied because of the reviews that some readers were disappointed. They were disappointed because Dan Wells the author of this wonderful exciting novel that is full of factual details about the mind of pycho killers as well as the details of the embalming process (which we never get from) Patricia Cornwell Mr. Wells drifted his novel from facts to fantasy. I was not surprised or disappointed. This is a fictional novel. I also love sci-fi, and fantasy. This novel is a fictional story by an author of another series about the end of our world. This series also has a touch of fantasy. What I'm trying to get across is that Dan Wells is a great story teller but if you want a book with facts or just factual ideas you will not be a fan of the Dan Wells novels that he has published so far. They are all well done and if you love good fantasy like I do or just a good story Dan Wells is well worth your time and money. Keep writing Mr. Wells. Please. I will purchase them all. Thank you for the hours of excitement, suspense, and yes a little bit of fear, and yes even joy that you have given me with your words. Sanna7125
This is one of the best books i have ever read! I could not put it down! I was reading it every chance I had! Never a boring or dull moment reading this thrilling book! Its darkness and suspense made the book so good! It's a must read! Read this book, you won't regret it!
In Clayton, fifteen year old John Wayne Cleaver has helped his mom and his aunt at the family run mortuary for years. He is surrounded by corpses so death means little to him, which makes it difficult for John to sympathize with the mourners. However, the human predators who cause death fascinate and frighten him. Concerned he may become a serial killer one day as he admires these psychopaths, he sees a shrink and has established rigid rules that he totally adheres to. A loner by nurture, he prefers the dead to the living as they demand nothing as opposed to their relatives demanding miraculous cosmetics. When a sliced up body parts arrive at the mortuary, even John is taken aback. When more carved up corpses are found, John investigates as he wants to meet his first serial killer in person though this also means he bends his rules for the first time. John holds the tale together as he constantly reminds himself that: "I am not a serial killer" though surrounded by death. He is a captivating unique lead character as is his mom and aunt. Teen-lit fans will relish his mantra and amateur sleuthing, as he investigates while also mindful of not crossing the line. Harriet Klausner
A friend lent me all three books, and I loved them so much I decided to write this review. Dan Wells really does his research, even more than you may realize just from the book. Can't wait to read more from him. John can be horrifying at one point, and heartwarming the next. The relationships between the characters are dynamic and believable. If you like a good thriller with a supernatural twist, then look no further.
I love John Wayne Cleaver. This book was engaging and at times, laugh out loud funny. After finishing it, I couldn't wait to get my hands on Mr. Monster. It was easy to get caught up in the lives of Clayton County residents and i kept thinking that having grown up in a small town, I've met, at one time or another, every one of the characters - including John. It was like going home for a visit. Loved it!
I just recently graduated from college and randomly chose this book while perusing the store. As a recent graduate, this book was WONDERFUL for a multitude of reasons. First of all, it was an easy read; I found myself unable to put it down! Being a psychology major, I thought the protagonist's level of personal insight was astounding and I found myself just wanting to keep turning the pages to see what other insightful thoughts John Wayne Cleaver had to offer to the reader. Even better was finishing the book and realizing it was part of a trilogy! I can't wait for the two other novels to come out. I don't frequently recommend books to others, but I've definitely recommended this one!
I had read Dan Wells dystopian series (Partials and Fragmants-- Ruins to come out in March 2014), and decided to give his other trilogy a try. The protagonist is a fascinating character and Wells gives incredible detail into the boy's psyche. For an almost 500 page book, it's a very quick read because you don't want to put it down. There is a twist you won't expect that will keep you riveted. Highly recommend and am looking forward to reading book #2 in this series, Mr. Monster.
This book was cool until it went supernatural. I was instantly angry when John's neighbor sprouted horns and demon claws and began killing people. What a stupid book.
I AM NOT A SERIAL KILLER was a great book about John Wayne Cleaver, our protagonist, and his struggles with the fact that he might be a sociopath and, even worse, he could become a serial killer. The best part about Dan Wells' first novel is the change of genre that occurs roughly midway through the book that offers its own unique twist, that at first, seems a little awkward but eventually it makes complete sense. This thriller isn't your typical hack and slash melodrama but a unique unfolding of a great story. I can't wait for the next book in this trilogy to be published.
Wells, D. (2010). I Am Not a Serial Killer. New York: Tor.271 pages.Appetizer: John Wayne Cleaver is one of the weird kids at Clayton High School. A freshman, he's been working at his mom and aunt's mortuary since he was little. He's obsess--fascinated--with serial killers. He has weekly sessions with a therapist and he only has one friend at school, a boy named Max, who John doesn't actually like that much, but uses to help him blend in. He also has rules, things he does or avoids so he won't become a serial killer. Of course, his mom doesn't appreciate any of his efforts.But when there is a brutal murder in town, and then another one, John begins to suspect that there is a serial killer in his own town. He can't help but be drawn into the figure out who the killer, the monster is, even if it means breaking some of his rules.Few But Dear Readers, if you want a creepy creeeeeeeeepy book, this is the one for you.Creeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeepy.John is...John is..., well, John is creepy. But he struggles against his dark nature, so he is al endearing and as a reader...you care about him...while also being creeped-out by him.Is it just me, or is the corpse finger way to close to his nostril for comfort? Yes? No? Am I alone in this?I have no doubt that Dan Wells has heard/read this before and I also have doubt that he is sick of hearing/reading it, but as a character, John is a lot like a young Dexter from the Showtime series. But instead of trying to just control his dark passenger and follow a code to kill other killers the way Dexter does, John tries to resist his darkness entirely by establishing rules to prevent himself from ever killing.The one issue I encountered as I read that I wasn't to crazy about it came on page 52. It's a spoiler for the content up to that point. So, stop reading if you don't want a spoiler! (Although I've also read blogs that presented the following information as though it wasn't even a spoiler. So, don't feel too spoiled. Also, keep in mind this book begins on page 13. So, I'm really only spoiling you for 39 pages.)Enough rambling, here's the actual spoiler:So, by page 52, the body of the first serial killer victim has been sent to the family mortuary and John has volunteered to help embalm the body. As he looks over the torn and autopsied remains, he narrates:"...I studied the slashes in the body's abdomen. They were certainly animalistic, and one area on its left side had what looked like a claw mark--four ragged slits, about an inch apart, that extended nearly a foot toward the belly. This was the work of the demon, of course, though we still didn't know that at the time. How could we? Back then, none of us even suspected that demons were real. I placed my own hand over the marks and guessed that whoever made them had a hand much bigger than mine" (p. 52)I really didn't like this interruption from future-John to introduce the fantasy (or magical realism to some!) element. (And who is "we" exactly? John and his family? John and lil ol' me?) There are only a few interruptions like that throughout the book, and while I normally LOVE pseudo-memoirs, it just wasn't working for me in this book. I prefer subtle hints that there's a fantasy element. (And that actually happens just a few pages later, when Max suggests that a werewolf is doing the killing. And even though John dismisses that idea, as readers we still now have that fantasy element in our minds. So, I would have preferred just to have subtle hints like that one instead of the memoir interruptus.I'll admit, when I first started reading I Am Not a Serial Killer, I was a little too creeped out by John's voice. I had to tell myself not to read it before bed, for fear of odd dreams. But as I eased into the book, I became more comfortable as John outlined more of who he was and as the plot took over. Then I didn't want to stop reading.There were a lot of great lines (like "Outside, a November snowstorm raged, bu
I wanted to read this book because of my fascination with serial killers and the intriguing slant in the main character's relationship with himself.While reading, I was put off by Wells' writing style. It came off as juvenile in that he writes as though he doesn't trust his readers to figure out fairly obvious things for themselves. He posts many unnecessary/rhetorical questions that the reader is (hopefully, or rather should be) already wondering about on her own. It's muddled in redundancy.All of this I could have put aside, and tried to, for the sake of the still intriguing concept and somewhat likable main character. However, a few more than 100 pages in, it took an unforgivable turn for the worse. I don't want to spoil anything for those who haven't read it yet and may still want to, so I will spare you any sort of real detail. Suffice it to say that it became very obvious fairly quickly that this book wasn't one I would care for in the slightest. I put it down without finishing it, which is something I usually have a hard time doing, but it was fairly easy with this one.
I liked this novel, but I could not bring myself to love it. It felt like a mishmash of novels I've read before stretched to be something a bit more fitting to the young adult crowd. Perhaps that makes me more critical since the novels I have read with the same storylines were quite obviously adult novels. I will say when the main character had a hard time figuring something out it did make sense for him because of the type of person he was, while the audience will have figured it out long before he even questions it. Well told, interesting tale, but a little too much of this story being a melting pot.
I Am Not a Serial Killer is the story of John, a teenager living in a small town. John is not your typical teenager though. He is a sociopath and knows that he is just one step away from becoming a serial killer. To control himself, he lets himself read about famous serial killers while following a strict set of rules he's developed for himself, such as not to follow people around too much and to compliment someone who is getting on him nerves and making him angry. Because John knows so much about serial killers, he is the first in his little town to realize that the two murders that have just occured are actually the work of a serial killer and not just random killings. John decides to find out who the killer is, not realizing that it's actually a demon intent on keeping its secret, even if it means killing John and his mother to do so. John has to face his own inner demon if he wants to protect himself and his family.So this was an great edge-of-your-seat book, though it was not at all what I expected it to be. I thought it would be a pretty typical cut and dry serial killer crime novel, with John the could-be serial killer as an added special twist. I wasn't expecting the serial killer to actually really be a demon. It was super well done, though I know it probably wouldn't appeal to everyone. The demon aspect and how it all leads into the story actually reminded me of one of my favorite tv shows ever, Buffy the Vampire Slayer (minus, of course, Buffy and her Sunnydale crew..like my beautiful Giles..). So I ate it up. If you're not much into supernatural twists in regular crime novels, then this probably won't be something you'd like. I really, really, really loved that John was the narrator. I loved getting inside of his head (which is probably a result of watching way too much Criminal Minds, but hey..) and seeing how he thought. It was great when he was trying to profile the serial killer in his town. To be fair, I'm not at all an expert on sociopathy or what exactly it is. I know the basics, but I couldn't tell you how accurate John and his thoughts were portrayed. So if it's completely inaccurate, I'm sure it would really bug anyone who has studied it. But I loved it :) John knows he's very different from other people. He has no emotions really toward anyone, except sometimes anger, yet he really tries to be normal for his mom. Also, John seems like he's genuinely afraid of who/what he could potentially become. He knows he's capable of some pretty sick stuff, so he doesn't let himself think about a lot of things. Like I said above, he has a strick set of rules that keep him in line. He has to start breaking some of these once he discovers who the killer is and decides to stop him once and for all, and the interal struggle that John has to deal with was to me one of the best parts of the book. I also thought it was interesting that John's family owns the town's only funeral parlor and he is a bit obsessed with the embalming part of it..I highly recommend this book to anyone who likes a good murder mystery with a supernatural twist.
Did anyone else read this book with Dexter's voice as the main character's? Creepy and awesome.
John Wayne Cleaver is not your average teen-aged sociopath. Yes, he's had an obsession with serial killers since he learned at age eight about his accidental namesake John Wayne Gacey. He's above average in intelligence, and has a childhood history of bed-wetting, fascination with fire, and the torture of small animals.The thing is, John Wayne Cleaver really doesn't want to become a serial killer himself, so he's worked out a whole system for tamping down his impulses. He's got rules. He keeps his monster, as he refers to it, locked up deep inside by forcing himself to interact in a more or less normal fashion with those around him, by not allowing himself to indulge in obsessive behaviors, and, most especially, by not allowing himself to obsess over death and its beauty. He even helps out the nice old couple next door by shoveling snow and running errands for them.It doesn't help that he and his mother live above the mortuary that she and her sister run. It helps even less when a brutal murder happens in town and it's immediately obvious to John that it may very well be the work of a serial killer.It is. The deaths keep coming and John keeps fighting his demons. How appropriate, then, when he realizes that the killer is not really a serial killer per se--at least, not in the traditional sense of the term--but rather, a demon in human guise who kills when he needs to grab a kidney or set of lungs to replace its own failing organs. He's both overjoyed and terrified when he realizes that he can actually do good by giving into his evil impulses by stopping the supernatural killer in his town. But at what cost to himself does he unleash the beast within?Dan Wells has created a compelling hero in John Wayne Cleaver. His first person narrative is clever and intelligent, and his struggles with the demons within (and without) are moving and sometimes funny.
Imagine if Dexter (from the television show Dexter) was fifteen years old and killed demons instead of people - that¿s this book. High schooler John Wayne Cleaver is a sociopath trying to control his desire to kill using a set of rules to regulate his behavior. He tries to imitate normal people, but it¿s hard to be normal when your family owns a mortuary, you¿re obsessed with serial killers, and you¿re emotionally isolated from everyone around you. It struck me that John is essentially a young Dexter, and while the story is not quite a rip off, it still bears striking similarities to the internal conflicts and themes dealt with in the television show.Of course, the major departure from Dexter is in the existence of supernatural creatures - demons - that John has to stop from murdering people in his hometown. To me, the supernatural element felt out of place somehow, like it didn¿t belong in a story about a teenage sociopath who¿s already fighting his own internal monster. I kept thinking that it could have been an excellent story without the demon thing, but perhaps my Dexter comparison unfairly influenced my viewpoint on this.As far as the characters, I really do sympathize with John... until he starts fantasizing about strangling a girl at school; then I am brutally reminded that John¿s total lack of empathy makes him capable of extreme violence. Still, John is interesting and complex, and the author does an excellent job of making you feel like you¿re really in the mind of a sociopath. John¿s interactions with his mom are heartbreaking, and the dysfunctional family dynamic makes the story more emotional and realistic.Even though I¿m a little disappointed with who dies in the end, it¿s still a well crafted, suspenseful thriller. The multifaceted characters are compelling, and John is an unusual hero whose dark thoughts make this a chilling, slightly disturbing read. I Am Not A Serial Killer is the first book in a trilogy, but it stands very well on its own. I may read the next installment, or I may just watch Dexter the next time I need a sympathetic serial killer fix.
Fun read, featuring a great protagonist - a teenager who recognizes all the signs of a psychopath in himself and is working hard not to give in to the urges that might make him a serial killer.
John Wayne Cleaver at age 15 just knows he is destined to be a serial killer. He has a similar name to John Wayne Gacy, his father¿s name is Sam, making him the Son-of-Sam, and his last name is a useful device for a serial killer to have. Actually John may be right, he has also been diagnosed as a psychopath, he loves setting fires and enjoys playing with the dead bodies that show up in the family mortuary. He sets a number of rules for himself and tries to live by them, to hopefully avoid killing anyone. I Am Not a Serial Killer reminded me a lot of Dexter, and immediately engaged me. I thought I was in for an excellent portrayal of the inner workings of a future serial killer.Suddenly the book took a drastic turn and, not wanting to spoil anyone¿s future read, let¿s just say it jumped into an area I was totally not expecting. I think the author was trying to show how John had to learn to control his inner monster in order to pass through the world as a normal human, but I¿m not sure if that was the way to do it as this new direction totally changed how one views the book. This was an intense, dark and fascinating coming-of-age story that I wish the author had simply played straight. I don¿t think his gimmick was needed to enhance the message of the book. Don¿t get me wrong though it was still an exciting and readable book, just not the haunting, chilling story I was hoping for. This is the first in a trilogy, and I do intend to continue with these engaging books.
I didn't think I would get into this book. But, you kind of can't help it after you start reading. It draws you in. It was a good read. Just found out there are two more after this : )
John Wayne Cleaver is just starting high school in Clayton and he's not like his classmates. His mother runs a mortuary and his father has pretty much been nonexistent. John doesn't relate to anyone at all and doesn't connect with people emotionally. Plus his favorite hobby is researching and telling people about serial killers. He is obsessed with them because he thinks if he doesn't stick to his carefully placed rules, he would be one of them. It's not an unwarranted comparison since he shares many traits with them, including being recently diagnosed as a sociopath by his therapist. His only friend is Max, a talkative and annoying boy, who only serves as a cover for John's antisocial tendencies. Because of his inability to relate with his classmates, bullies frequently bother him and he has to will himself to grin and compliment them instead of gutting them like fish. John is intensely interested in a new development in his town: a serial killer who steals organs has been striking with increasing frequency in his very own town. John compiles a psychological profile on the killer, but some things just don't add up. Is this just a run of the mill serial killer or something more nefarious?When I started reading this book, I automatically thought that I would be reading about a mini version of Dexter Morgan (from Jeff Lindsay's series and the TV show). To some extend the two are similar, but I was relieved to see that they have distinct differences. John was aware of his tendencies and tried to put rules in place to prevent him from becoming a killer. He would stop himself from staring at people or following people around. If he felt angry at someone, he would pay them a compliment instead of acting out the violent fantasies in his head. The killer inside of him is personified as a monster behind the wall of his rules. I think it's interesting that he sees himself and the killer as two separate beings when he's trying to repress it. Later in the novel, he decides he needs to kill the serial killer in Clayton, so he allows that wall to crumble and lets the monster out. Then, he and the creature blur together and he has to frequently stop himself from giving in to the homicidal urges with innocents in his town. The most interesting aspect of his narrative for me was his sociopathic view of people. He views them as objects and only connects emotionally through creating fear within the other person. It makes his relationships with other people like sick imitations of real ones. For instance, he feels drawn to a girl and I assume it's because he likes her and wants to be her boyfriend. Not so. He make her view him as the only person in the world and then kill her. The fact that John is only in high school makes his view of people all the more chilling. I think John is a bit darker than Dexter despite his age because he is still struggling between being a killer who kills innocents and a killer who kills other murderers.I was a little disappointed that the villain in the novel turned out to be a supernatural creature. I don't really like my serial killers mixed with demons and the like when it's unexpected, which is the reason why I really hated the third Dexter novel. However, I accepted it and moved on. I did enjoy the rest of the novel and I am looking forward to the second book, Mr. Monster. Despite the violence, I consider the novel appropriate for young adults because it's a sort of homicidal coming of age story. I would also recommend this to fans of the Dexter TV and book series.
From the back of the book:John Wayne Cleaver is dangerousm and he knows it. He's spent his life doing his best not to live up to his potential. He;'s obsessed with serial killers but really doesn't want to become one. So, for his own sake, and the safety of those around him, he lives by rigid rules he's written for himself, practicing normal life as if it were a private religion that could save him from damnation. Dead bodies are normal to John. He like the, actually. They don't demand or expect the empathy he's unable to offer. Perhaps that's what gives him the objectivity to recognize that there's something different about the body the police have just foundbehind the Wash-n-Dry Laundromat - and to appreciate what theat difference means. Now, for the first time, John has to confront a danger outside himself, a threat he can't control, a menace to everything and everyone he would love, if only he could.Book one of a trilogy.
I thoroughly enjoyed the first 1/3rd of this book. I loved reading about the character and both how he felt and how he fought those feelings. There were many similarities to the character of Dexter in Jeff Lindsay's series, but I was able to overlook them. However, in the remainder of the book, it took a more supernatural, unrealistic turn which I DID NOT like and could not overlook. I kept waiting for main character to realize that this was all in his head, something he made up as a way to play into his darker urges, but I was disappointed. Overall, I am left disappointed that the author felt the need to fall back on the supernatural rather than to write about the very real demons in the world today.
John Wayne Cleaver is a sociopath. His dad¿s name is Sam ¿ that makes him the ¿Son of Sam¿, he shares a name with serial killer John Wayne Gacey, and his surname is a weapon. He also works at a mortuary and loves seeing the dead bodies that come through.He can¿t emote his feelings. He doesn¿t feel any empathy. He has a monster inside of him telling him to kill, but to try not to kill he lives his life according to a set of rules he has made for himself.So when a serial killer starts killing off people in his town, John becomes fascinated. Obsessed. He spends all his conscious moments trying to come up with a motive and a profile. And then¿ he sees who the killer is and makes it his effort to kill him before he strikes again.It¿s a really intense real, but highly entertaining. I particularly loved the parts between John and his psychologist Dr Nebler. John is very open and upfront about his thoughts and feelings and I felt like as a reader, I really learnt a lot about who John is.We really get into John¿s head during this book. See how he thinks and what his thought patterns are. It¿s quite disturbing at times, especially how he thinks about Brooke in particular (his neighbour who has a crush on him ¿ and visa versa), but it certainly was captivating and interesting none the less.The twist that takes place about a third of the way though the book is absolutely massive. It changes the whole way you see the book and its characters, and certainly knocks John for a loop as well. Dan Wells was so clever when he wrote this book, the way that twist (really, there¿s actually two twists kinda all made up into one big twist. lol) was played was absolutely brilliant!Well written, and fascinating ¿ I really enjoyed this book and hope to be able to read the sequel at some stage!