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I Am Not a Serial Killer, a Book Review

Updated on April 19, 2018
PDXKaraokeGuy profile image

Justin W. Price, AKA PDXKaraokeGuy, is a freelance writer, blogger, and award-nominated author based out of Juneau, Alaska.

The Vitals

I am Not a Serial Killer by first time author Dan Wells

288 pgs, 2009 Tor (UK), 2010 Headline (US)

overall rating 23/35

John Wayne Gacy Jr.
John Wayne Gacy Jr. | Source
Author Dan Wells
Author Dan Wells | Source
The Son of Sam, David Berkowitz
The Son of Sam, David Berkowitz | Source

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

Originality: 1/5

Total Rating: 23/35

Thanks for Reading.

Purchase This and the rest of the trilogy:


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    • PDXKaraokeGuy profile image

      Justin W Price 5 years ago from Juneau, Alaska

      Tebo, there's certainly a market for YA fiction and there's a lot of great writers in this genre (RL Stine, for example) but, this book was not marketed that way, and that was my major gripe with it.

    • tebo profile image

      tebo 5 years ago from New Zealand

      This is a great review. I have to admit that the books my teenage son (when he was a teenage son) brought home from school as class readers were always attractive to me. I read them so I could help him analyse them if necessary, but they were great! Really enjoyed them.

    • PDXKaraokeGuy profile image

      Justin W Price 6 years ago from Juneau, Alaska

      Deborah, that's a great comment. You really can't ever have enough. it's so true. Thanks for stopping by!

    • Deborah Brooks profile image

      Deborah Brooks Langford 6 years ago from Brownsville,TX

      thanks for the book review.. this subject does fascinate me..I think I will try some of the books.. I feel like you cant have enough books. I Voted up and awesome..

    • PDXKaraokeGuy profile image

      Justin W Price 6 years ago from Juneau, Alaska

      ardie, i got your e mail. I'll respond shortly!

    • Ardie profile image

      Sondra 6 years ago from Neverland

      Ok will do! I would rather help out a fellow writer :) and I'm just a poor girl so I am looking for used... if I like it I will buy the other two new to support the author.

    • PDXKaraokeGuy profile image

      Justin W Price 6 years ago from Juneau, Alaska

      ardie, no. Hubpages approves these links so it should be a tos violation. If you go the used route, look for the one offered by jabba4solo. That's me. I'm charging $4.99 for it.

    • Ardie profile image

      Sondra 6 years ago from Neverland

      Heeeeey, I am indeed interested but I'm afraid to click your link to take me there. Does that violate any TOS if I buy the product? Assuming yours is the one listed above.

    • PDXKaraokeGuy profile image

      Justin W Price 6 years ago from Juneau, Alaska

      Thanks, beata. i feel it was interesting, but I also think it suffered from lazy writing. Let me know if you check it out! Feel free to use my links!

    • Beata Stasak profile image

      Beata Stasak 6 years ago from Western Australia

      It is not easy to keep the reader's attention and you have done just that, great review on an interesting book:)

    • PDXKaraokeGuy profile image

      Justin W Price 6 years ago from Juneau, Alaska

      Ardie, thank you. Let me know what you think. I'm selling my copy on amazon, if you're interested in that one :-)

      Thanks Gypsy, Stephen King is great, but most of his movies don't translate into great movies. It's kind of a shame (GReen Mile, Shawshank Redemption and The Shining being notable exceptions)

    • Gypsy Rose Lee profile image

      Gypsy Rose Lee 6 years ago from Riga, Latvia

      Stephen Kings my absolute favorite but if I ever decide to give this book a try I'll buy it. Great review!

    • Ardie profile image

      Sondra 6 years ago from Neverland

      Good review! I'm constantly searching for new things to read :) The idea behind the book sounds most interesting but now Im a little unsure about the end as you described it. Oh, heck! Im still going to read it. AND Im off to look at your other older hubs to see if you have more reviews.

    • PDXKaraokeGuy profile image

      Justin W Price 6 years ago from Juneau, Alaska

      Carlon, that's m,y problem too. I feel like my novel, What happens When You Don't Know Anything, was better before I knew how it was going to end. Once I learned the ending, I feel like I started rushing to get there. That is, perhaps, why i haven't yet finished it. I don't want my readers to feel robbed. i want them to enjoy the journey.

      Ruby, I'm with you. i find that psyche fascinating!

      Thank you both for reading and commenting

    • always exploring profile image

      Ruby Jean Richert 6 years ago from Southern Illinois

      There's something about serial killers that fascinate me. I know that sounds weird but it's true. So i probably would read this book. Nice review....

    • Carlon Michelle profile image

      Carlon Michelle 6 years ago from USA

      Nice review. I personally hate when writing gets slow or boring after a great moving introduction. It's like they had this great idea and didn't know where to take it and just dropped the ball in order to make a deadline. It is also why I've never completed a book, I don't like when my stories get stale and I don't know where to take the story. I don't want to drop the ball on my reader and make them sorry they picked up the book. I also don't want to just be a commercial writer but one that moves my audience to think. But I guess this man did good because he did manaage to get published. If I could stomach murder mysteries and suspense novels I'm sure I'd check into it. For now I'll be happy to just read your reviews of them. Smile!

    • PDXKaraokeGuy profile image

      Justin W Price 6 years ago from Juneau, Alaska

      Mary, I don't believe I am any kind of woman, let alone wonder woman! It helps that I only need 6 hours of sleep a night. 18 hours days are bound to be more productive then 16 hour days. Thanks for reading.

      Thanks Jen. Let me know if you decide to take a flier on this book.

      Sligo, thanks very much for stopping by. Always nice to see you.

    • sligobay profile image

      sligobay 6 years ago from east of the equator

      This is a good review of an interesting book and topic. Thanks.

    • profile image

      jenubouka 6 years ago

      Cool, I will head over and take a look, Thanks!

    • mary615 profile image

      Mary Hyatt 6 years ago from Florida

      Good Morning! How in the world do you have time to read and write all the great Hubs you do? You must be wonder woman! I don't have time to read anymore. Good book review, though. I've only done one, would like to do more when I can find the time. Have a great day.

    • PDXKaraokeGuy profile image

      Justin W Price 6 years ago from Juneau, Alaska

      Jen, I just listed my copy on Amazon: look for the one for $4.99 and offered by Jabba4solo.

      Subron, I look forward to reading yours when it's done. I like Koontz as well :-)

    • SubRon7 profile image

      James W. Nelson 6 years ago from eastern North Dakota

      Interesting stuff, KaraokieGuy, you appear to know what you're talking about. And since my new novel is about--not really a serial killer. Don't quite know how to describe it. Definitely a koontz fan.

    • profile image

      jenubouka 6 years ago

      Great review and darn you for the King list, I now just found 4 books I need.....

      The book does sound interesting I do like a good read and do need a break from King novels time to time.