Book Review: I Am Not a Serial Killer by Dan Wells

Title: I Am Not a Serial Killer

Author: Dan Wells

Genre: Horror/Fantasy

Number of Pages: 272

Rating: B-

Recommended?: Yes

John Wayne Cleaver is not your average 15-year-old boy: for one thing, he’s obsessed with murder and serial killers. For another, he (and his therapist) are pretty sure he has sociopathic tendencies. Nevertheless, John prepares himself a set of rules to curb future violent behaviors; he keeps the ‘monster’ behind a wall, until hell comes to his small town of Clayton County and John has to use to very things that make him different and terrifying to other people to protect them against a creature of unfathomable power.
I Am Not a Serial Killer takes a turn into paranormal territory about a quarter of the way through, which might be jarring to some readers who were expecting a more traditional crime thriller. It’s hard to empathize much with a main character who shows very little empathy, but John is nonetheless an interesting and original character. I liked how his sociopathy ended up being used as a weapon against a greater evil, and both what made him human and what made him less human than the people around him aiding him in his journey.


I Am Not a Serial Killer also has a really good sense of pacing, it’s the very definition of a page turner. John comes from a dysfunctional family, but not a particularly abusive one, and he’s the product of a mother who loves him unconditionally and an absent father (it’s painful to see how John treats his mother, because I put myself in her position more than I put myself in his.) John, his mother, and his aunt all work as morticians, and John has been in close contact with death since he was a little boy, which definitely lends to an interesting family dynamic! For John, a fresh stiff coming to the family-owned  funeral home is like Christmas coming early, and temporarily quenches his fascination with death.


Most of the characters except John Wayne Cleaver are somewhat flat and reactionary, mostly there in an attempt to provide a response to John’s extreme behavior. John’s mother came off as the most believable out of the supporting characters, but even her development was kind of sketchy (case in point: John pulls a knife on her, and shortly after she’s giving him right to start working with dead bodies again because she ‘knows he needs this,’ without mentioning his outburst of violence against her again.) Dr. Neblin was a just plain bad therapist, I mean seriously, who gives a kid like John his home phone number?


There is some clichéd writing, and John talking about his inner monster trying to break free really starts to get annoying after a while, but I Am Not a Serial Killer is still a compulsively readable thrill ride with a very cool, original premise. Although it definitely requires a serious suspension of disbelief sometimes, it was still a lot of fun, and I would be interested in reading the sequel, Mr. Monster, soon to see what John Wayne Cleaver gets up to next and if he can continue to keep his violent tendencies at bay and be a decent human being, which, despite all odds, he still seems to be striving for.


Have any of you seen the movie adaptation? How was it? Tell me in the comments! 🙂



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