Review: I am not a Serial Killer

I Am Not a Serial Killer by Dan Wells

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I’m not a horror person – I got this to listen to with my wife on a car trip. She calls the book Baby-Dexter. She’s not wrong. I think the book fits in a very interesting intersection. It’s (in my opinion) a little gruesome for YA being in John’s head and reading his sociopathic thoughts. But because it’s YA it’s also pretty tame with some of the horror elements. Also, the first twist about the nature of the killer (it’s not on the GR description, but it’s on some other descriptions – including the movie based on it) somewhat absolves John of some of his inner tension – at least that’s how my wife and I felt. That is to say, based on the nature of the killer, some of what John is debating seems moot. (And that continues with his antagonists at least through book 3, according to my wife)

I was able to predict both big twists: the identity of the killer and the reason their patterns changed from a long time ago. I don’t know if that’s because of reading a lot, being familiar with tropes, the fact that it’s YA, or some combination of all of the above. That didn’t ruin the story for me because it’s almost incidental. Going back to the Baby Dexter idea – it matters less how the case is resolved and more how it affects John. As the GR description says, John fears he will become a serial killer if he doesn’t follow rules, but solving the case requires him to abandon the rules. Seeing how that affects his relationships is fascinating.

Speaking of relationships, giving John the therapist to play off of was a brilliant move on Dan Wells’ part. It gives him someone who takes him seriously and who won’t recoil from his sociopathy (unlike everyone else in town) and who he can mostly speak to in confidence. (As in real life, the therapist has a duty to report if John is going to be a danger to himself or others)

I don’t know how accurate Wells was with the sociopathy and/or how much is different about what we know about serial killers today vs the past decade or so when this book was written, but he seems to take it seriously and not play it simply for drama or shock value (as most movies or TV shows are wont to do with psychiatric diagnosis).

Overall, I thought Wells did a good job and it makes sense that this is the series that propelled him into authorship to join his buddies in the club (like Brandon Sanderson). It also makes sense that this book was made into a movie. I don’t plan to go further into the series because, again, horror’s not really my thing, but my wife is continuing on. She’s given the books average ratings so far. Given the subject matter it’s hard to make a good recommendation. If you’re very squeamish this might be too much horror. If you’re a horror nut, this might be too little horror. And, of course, it’s YA, and deciding whether to give this to a young one in your life falls into the same pitfalls plus a little more.

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