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I Am Not a Serial Killer, a Book Review
I am Not a Serial Killer by first time author Dan Wells
288 pgs, 2009 Tor (UK), 2010 Headline (US)
overall rating 23/35
I Am Not a Serial Killer By Dan Wells A Review
I am Not a Serial Killer starts with an interesting premise: fifteen year old John Wayne Cleaver believes he is destined to become a serial killer. As such, he lives by a rigid, almost religious; set of rules to prevent him from acting on what he believes is his destiny. He has many reasons for this belief: he is a bed wetter, a pyro and he has a past of being cruel to animals. 95% of all serial killers share these traits. Also, his name is John Wayne, which he attributes to being a reference to clown serial killer John Wayne Gacy. Also, his last name of Cleaver which is obviously a tool that can be sued to killing and his dad is named Sam which, of course, makes him the “Son of Sam”.
Whew. Okay. That's a pretty heavy burden for anyone, let alone a fifteen year old boy, to bear.
These are all interesting and had me hooked. First time author Dan Wells obviously did his homework, from the embalming process (Young Cleaver’s mother conveniently owns a mortuary and he goes into great detail about the embalming process.) to the psyche of serial killers. He weaves the details into his story flawlessly and without grossing out the reader. The first 1/3rd of the book demonstrates this skill.
However, the final 2/3rds lost me a bit. See, there’s a serial killer in town and we find out early on who it is, and, while this is disappointing, the identity of the serial killer is also disappointing and, without giving away too much, it delves into the realm of fantasy. It was quite disappointing and, even though I discovered after reading the book that the book is actually considered young adult fiction (I bought it the “regular” fiction section) the last two thirds of the book was a bit of a cop out, copycat.
Not that I wasn’t entertained, I was. Wells is clearly skilled at writing detail and introspection, but he is not nearly as skilled in dialogue, originality and action, which are equally important.
The book reads fast but fizzles out at the end and suffers from a poor editor, who missed some obvious grammar and chronological details, and probably needed to see one more draft with some minor edits before hitting the printer.
But, it was entertaining and I can recommend the book if you’re looking for an easy to read and get lost in a holiday escape. Once you accept who the audience for this book is, you can find yourself enjoying the book and actually rooting for our confused narrator.
I'm sure this book would appeal to young fans of R.L. Stine and the target demographic, but, Stephen King and Dean Koontz do it better. Stick with them. If you're looking for a new author, however, you could do worse.
This is the first book in a trilogy.
Writing/Editing Quality: 4/10
Entertainment quality: 18/20
Total Rating: 23/35