WHAT’S PLAYING: OneRepublic “Everybody Loves Me”
This week’s first book is I Am Not a Serial Killer by Dan Wells.
This is the story of John Wayne Cleaver, a fifteen-year-old sociopath who lives and works with his mother in their family owned mortuary. John believes that he is destined to become a serial killer and follows a strict set of rules to ensure he doesn’t give into his darker urges. When a bona fide serial killer turns up and begins slaughtering innocent victims in his hometown, John decides to use his unique skill set to stop him. But catching the killer may mean unleashing his own inner monster. And if he does that, no one will be safe.
I have one word to describe this book: compelling. John Wayne Cleaver is one of the most disturbing and refreshing protagonists I’ve ever encountered. His analytical mind is perfectly suited to finding the demonic serial killer terrorizing his town, but even he has a hard time figuring out his true motives. Is he really trying to protect his family and neighbors or is his subconscious simply looking for way to satisfy his own urge to kill? Honestly, I found myself more disturbed by the possibility that John may give into to his murderous instincts than anything else. The struggle to find and destroy the serial killer was almost tame compared to the intensity of John’s internal struggle.
I did have a few issues with the book’s structure. John spends the first hundred pages or so trying to identify the killer, so it reads like a mystery. Then, Wells throws in a demonic twist that transforms the book into a supernatural thriller. I must admit that he does a decent job highlighting the conflict between a demon killer with human motivations for his actions and a human boy who is incapable of feeling empathy. Still, the structure didn’t quite work for me. It felt like the author lost control of the story, or ran out of ideas and decided to shift genres in the middle of the book.
Still, I Am Not a Serial Killer is a book that works on many levels and a welcome addition to my library.
Favorite Line/Image: “You’re a great guy, Rob,” I said. He looked at me oddly.
“…you’re about as important to me as a cardboard box,” I said. “You’re just a thing—a piece of garbage that no one’s thrown away yet…The thing about boxes, is that you can open them up. Even though they’re completely boring on the outside, there might be something interesting inside. So while you’re saying all of these stupid, boring things, I’m imagining what it would be like to cut you open and see what you’ve got in there….The thing is, Rob, I don’t want to cut you open. That’s not who I want to be. So I made a rule for myself: anytime I want to cut someone open, I say something nice to them instead. That is why I say, Rob Anders of 232 Carnation Street, that you are a great guy.”
Bottom Line: An interesting, disturbing read.