Whatever his need is, one kill a month isn’t satisfying it anymore. It’s like an addiction—after a while, one cigarette isn’t enough, so you need two, then three, then a whole pack, or whatever. He’s losing control, and he’s going to start killing a lot more often.
In all likelihood, John Cleaver is going to become a serial killer when he grows up, no matter what his therapist says. As a diagnosed sociopath who is fascinated with dead bodies, wets the bed, and tends to see people as things, the odds are stacked against him. Only a set of personal rules keep John’s destructive compulsions in check and help him—most of the time—to live the life of a regular teenager.
All semblance of normalcy is challenged, though, when he recognizes a pattern in a string of local murders, a pattern that no one else seems to be taking seriously. Pursuing the mystery himself requires bending a few of the rules, though, and before he knows it, John finds himself on a very slippery slope, very much in danger of becoming the exact kind of monster he trying to stop.
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The most unusual or distinctive element of I Am Not a Serial Killer is its unusual protagonist, a young psychopath who has determined not to be what nature intended him to be. This seems a pretty significant challenge for a novice author like Dan Well to take on, because how can a reader ever relate to a character who is so abnormal? On the other hand, sometimes the character who most longs for humanity is the one you are most pulling for (think Data or Bean). It’s a fine line Wells attempts to walk between having a fascinatingly alien character and completely alienating his audience … but ultimately I feel he does so quite capably. That being said, I imagine there will still be some readers who will be uncomfortable with the novel and its disturbed hero.
Beyond that, it’s hard to know what to say about the book. It’s a neatly crafted little horror/mystery/thriller, and I was glad I read it. It will be interesting to see where the trilogy goes from here.
My Grade: B+