Since I enjoyed Dan Wells’s 2012 foray into Young Adult, Partials, I decided to go back and read his other work: The John Cleaver trilogy. The idea of getting into a mind of sociopath intrigued me; I expected a thought-provoking, character-driven novel with an complex, yet also unreliable narrator. I went in with high expectations, but although it was an exciting read filled with suspense, the John Cleaver’s character was too forced–nor did the plot twist that almost ruined the story. However, I still found the story enjoyable–a very easy read. I didn’t like John very much nor could I grasp his thinking, but I’ll let it go–he is a sociopath after all.
I’m Not Sure If I Would Classify It As An Adult Novel:
If it were up to me, this novel would be classified as Young Adult. Well to be fair, it was originally pitched as a YA novel, so maybe that’s why I didn’t get the adult vibe from it. Or because the protagonist was a high school freshman. Perhaps it was the horror, “gore” aspect that kept it from being in YA–but it really wasn’t that horrific. I’m the girl who got scared with that hanging man song from Suzanne Collin’s Mockingjay, but this novel…didn’t faze me at all. So even if you are a YA lover, don’t let the adult classification deter you.
If You Liked Barry Lyga’s I Hunter Killers, This Is Your Book:
I also found it similar to Barry Lyga’s new horror YA novel, I Hunt Killers, which is also why I think Dan Wells’s I Am Not A Serial Killer could have passed for YA. Although Jazz (from I Hunt Killers) is not as messed up as John Cleaver (in fact, they might as well be opposites: Jazz is charismatic while John is reclusive), they are both teenagers desensitized by their unusual upbringing. Both struggle between good and evil, the idea that they might become serial killers, and dedicate themselves to catching serial killers. But while charismatic I Hunt Killer’s Jazz worries that he might be a sociopath, I Am Not A Serial Killer’s John is already diagnosed as one.
Character (John Wayne Cleaver):
John is hard to relate to (despite having a great sense of humor)–not surprisingly, since he is a diagnosed sociopath. He has a “monster” inside of him with murderous intentions, and he struggles to keep himself in check by self-imposing rules. He is also oblivious to social situations–and doesn’t know when to shut up and only cares about sharing his serial killing expertise. At times I was annoyed with him: “I don’t want to be a serial killer, I have to keep the monster in, I am dangerous…” It was like his way of dealing with his nature. To me, John wants to be a serial killer, and he was just saying these things to make himself feel “normal.” I often wish there was more to him.
There are times where he is too naive, or just plain stupid. There were opportunities to bash the murderer in the head..but he just stood there, observed for a few seconds–then ran away. Why in the world would you drag a body with a murderer after you? And how in the world could he even carry a 140 lb+ body? Does he secretly weight train and it just wasn’t mentioned? From the novel, I just thought he was a skinny, antisocial, creepy nerd.
Oh yeah, apparently he is also paranoid because a serial killer has the same name as him. And his father’s name is Sam, so that also makes him the “Son of Sam”–another serial killer. This family really doesn’t know how to name children: John and Sam are like the boringest, most common names in the book. Try a Pokemon name next time.
I am not sure if John’s crush on Brooke would be considered a romance since it was very much one-sided. John, being a sociopath, makes it difficult for him to recognize emotions. Rather than a crush, it was more like an unhealthy obsession. It was like watching that stalker guy from American Beauty.
Does This Guy Have No School?
Or homework? Projects? I am surprised John, being a high schooler, has time left for stalking people.
No wonder John is not the sharpest tack in the drawer.
I Have Issues With This Plot Twist:
I love a good plot twist any day, but this one…it was just so RANDOM, and not in a good way. Not only did the genre change, but all logic. After that twist, it was like “well then, all bets are off.”
This really saved the book. Even if the first few chapters felt slow with introductions, and a slight serial killer info-dump, the action saved it in the second half.
Overall, it was an enjoyable read–if you don’t think about it too much and don’t mind the passive, flat narrator. I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend to a YA horror fan, especially if you enjoyed Barry Lyga’s I Hunt Killers. As for me, I want my horror scarier than this.
Spoilery Thoughts I Need To Get Out of My System
Seriously, the murder is a stupid on his part too–ever heard of surveillance cameras? Yeah, you should get some and put it around the house.