Sunday, March 18, 2012

Review: I Am Not a Serial Killer by Dan Wells

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 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 :) 

Some fave quotes:
Page 98: At the mercy of the elements the opposite happens: your body slows, your thoughts grow sluggish, and you realize just how mechanical you really are.  Your body is a machine, full of tubes and valves and motors, of electrical signals and hydraulic pumps, and they function properly only within a certain range of conditions.  As temperatures drop, your machine breaks down.  Cells begin to freeze and shatter; muscles use more energy to do less; blood flows too slowly, and to the wrong places.  Your senses fade, your core temperature plummets, and your brain fires random signals that your body is too weak to interpret or follow.  In that state you are no longer a human being, you are a malfunction-an engine without oil, grinding itself to pieces in its last futile effort to complete its last meaningless task.
Page 166: In my biology class, we'd talked about the definition of life: to be classified as a living creature, a thing needs to eat, breathe, reproduce, and grow.  Dogs do, rocks don't; trees do, plastic doesn't.  Fire, by that definition, is vibrantly alive.  It eats everything from wood to flesh, excreting the waste as ash, and it breathes air just like a human, taking in oxygen and emitting carbon.  Fire grows, and as it spreads, it creates new fires that spread out and make new fires of their own.  Fire drinks gasoline and excretes cinders, it fights for territory, it loves and hates.  Sometimes when I watch people trudging through their daily routines, I think that fire is more alive than we are-brighter, hottor, more sure of itself and where it wants to go.  Fire doesn't settle; fire doesn't tolerate; fire doesn't "get by".  Fire does.

(A funny joke.  I thought it was hilarious but it took me at least 10 minutes to figure it out) Page 191: "Two women walked into a bar," Said Mom.  "The first one looked at the other one and said, 'I didn't see it either.'"


  1. this sounds really interesting. I think the 'serial killer turns detective' may have been done so I think perhaps the author is trying to inject some more originality with the whole demon thing. It sounds as if the author pulled this off.

  2. Wow! The title alone drew me in and the idea of John being one step away from turning into a serial killer is quite fascinating. I might have to check this one out!

  3. Oh, fun! I love the cover -- it absolutely catches the mood of the story!

  4. What an unusual perspective for a book - it sounds like a lot of fun!