Monday, February 26, 2018

REVIEW: I Am Not A Serial Killer by Dan Wells (John Cleaver #1)

My Ratings:

5/5 stars
PG-16: Disturbing content and images; some violence; thematic elements involving serial killers; recommend for mature audience.

My Review:
Ain't gonna lie. I Am Not A Serial Killer is on the dark side. It's macabre and morbid; I now know more about the embalming process than I ever knew I didn't want to know (closed casket funeral for me, thanks); it slams you front and center into the mind of a sociopath and, well,
It's absolutely fantastic.

I don't do horror. I don't do slashers and I really don't like scary stories -Alfred Hitchcock thrillers or Shyamalan's The Village is about how high I go on the intensity scale, but Wells has created something compelling and significant here that I could not put down. I started reading at 10pm and didn't let go til I finished around 5am. More impressive, I slept like a baby afterwards. No nightmares here, thanks! I'll, uh, let you decide for yourself how that rates me on your Disturbed scale after you read what is, as far as I'm concerned, a narrative masterpiece.

You want character driven stories?

You want amazing character depth and first-rate point of view?

These are two major traits that will get a book a permanent place in my heart, and I Am Not A Serial Killer has both in spades. I don't even know where to begin.

My Review -The Video!

John Wayne Cleaver is a sociopath. He can't empathize; he doesn't understand emotions; he doesn't experience emotions on a normal level. Worse than that, he possesses several key predictors of serial killers. He knows he possesses the predictors of serial killers and fears that fate for his future. But the skill of Dan Wells' pen is evident because of HOW EASILY I was able to relate to, understand, and empathize with John. He is portrayed expertly as a sympathetic teenager fighting against a horrific burden -a burden that happens to be a desire to cut people open and examine their guts. And I cared about him. I understood. Even if I couldn't relate personally, I understood John.

You have to understand and recognize what a truly masterful job Wells has wrought in creating this character! I still can't get over the fact I not only finished this book about a serial-killer-obsessed, sociopath teen -I can't wait to get my hands on the rest of the series.

I was enraptured. And, yeah, okay, maybe slightly disturbed by that fact.

I'm intentionally not going into the plot for fear of spoilers; I went into this knowing very little, and I think that's the best way to experience it, and so that is my gift to you. But just so we're clear? As much as I'm raving about the amazing character and narration, the plot is just as deserving of praise. There are really no disappointing qualities here.

I Am Not A Serial Killer is also funny -albeit in a twisted, morbid kind of way. (Am I showing too much of my dark side?)

Bonus? The book doesn't have any swearing or smut and -even when dealing with the grisly events- the descriptions are more straight forward than slasher/gory.

This story is unique, raw, challenging, and beautifully written. Wells manages a good balance between John's own removed emotions toward the terrible deaths and the gravity and reverence with which the other characters treat them to still make it respectable. And he uses this contrast as a building block for both John's character depth and development!

HOW MANY TIMES HAVE I PROCLAIMED MY LOVE OF ALL THINGS CHARACTER? Do you need another reason to give this a try?

Speaking of, it's time to introduce my...

Don't be alarmed. This is a new thing. I'm taking it out for a test drive.
John Wayne Cleaver definitely takes home gold in the Most Interesting Character category, but my favorite is Dr. Ben Neblin. He almost wins hands down for this quote alone:
"You are always in control of your own destiny, and you are always the one who makes your own choices -no one else."
Truer words were never spoken, and when you're dealing with material as heavy and real as this does, it's important -nay, vital- to make such a blatant and brutal distinction as to who must stand responsible for the reprehensible actions not only in this story, but in the reality beyond it.

I did waffle back and forth on whether to rate this four or five stars due to the mature content but I realized I had no qualms about this book outside of the question of age range. Plus, I really, really loved it. Therefore -for mature and responsible audiences- this gets a whopping 5 out of 5 stars.

Are you intrigued yet?


  1. omg I loved this book SO MUCH!!! I couldn't agree with you more! Great review Amanda!

  2. I'm so glad you read it! Have you started on the rest of the series yet?