I Am Not a Serial Killer

 Maybe I should rename this blog to, “Ellie Reads Sporadically.” I’m sorry! It’s not that I haven’t been reading lately, it’s just that life has gotten extremely busy. So, while I wait here at Jiffy Lube so they can make sure they did things correctly on my car, I decided to return to the world of book blog reviews. Pardon any autocorrect errors (hopefully I catch them all).

Recently, I attended Salt Lake Comic Con: FanX, a comic convention that is making San Diego Comic-Con nervous because of its similarity in names and the number of visitors it receives (it also helps that Salt Lake’s entry fee is only around $50-60 for basic multi-day entry, that all panels are free, and that there’s a strong author base represented there in a state that churns out authors and hopeful writers as fast as butter). One of the panels was, “I Am Not a Serial Killer: the journey from page to screen.”
Well, I had never heard of this particular book by Dan Wells, but I have a weakness for true crime and stories with sociopaths, so when I found Dan Wells with his five or six books starring the sociopath John Wayne Cleaver, and it was a paranormal thriller series, I decided to buy the first book and read as much of it as I could before the panel. So I bought I Am Not a Serial Killer and managed to read the first couple of chapters before the panel.

The panel was interesting–it talked a lot about how sociopaths are misrepresented in the media, like how their sociopathy is treated like a superpower that is turned on and off at appropriate moments–but I left feeling a bit lost whenever they were talking about aspects of the story. So, of course, I went home and read it in my spare time.

Reading five minutes here and there wasn’t working, so I managed to shirk my household chores over the last couple of days and finished it off in a couple of sittings.

I have to say, this book intrigues me. It revolves around the life of fifteen-year-old John Wayne Cleaver, a boy who recognizes in himself all the makings of a serial killer. Because he doesn’t recognize empathy and is intrigued by watching people and helping his mom (who is normal but happens to work in a morgue), he has set up rules so he won’t give in to his darker tendencies. However, when a supernatural being starts killing people in town, John realizes that he must break his rules in order to save the people in the town.

I have to admit, it was creepy to watch John begin to devolve, to start not only stalking a demon but the girl next door as well. And to see him go from logical and impassive to raging at times was frighteningly similar to someone I know that I suspect (and have for a while) is a sociopath. I am not an expert in sociopathy, but whether or not Dan Wells’ portrayal of John is accurate, it makes for a complex and interesting character.

The supernatural bits were interesting as well. It set up an interesting dichotomy of the human monster vs the monster human, of love vs logic, of why these two very different characters might kill. I read a few reviews of the movie that was made from the book, and it sounds like a lot of the viewers were turned off by the sudden appearance of a supernatural element in the third act. Don’t fret, book readers: the supernatural element is shown very early in the book and is incorporated into the serial killer mystery very well. (And now I’m curious whether my decoding of those reviews were right or if those viewers missed clues that were obvious or not-so-obvious. Better rent it on Amazon!)

Will I read the rest of the series? Possibly, yes. But one nice thing is that this book stands on its own and doesn’t need a sequel to be complete.

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