Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Book Review - I Am Not A Serial Killer (John Cleaver #1) by Dan Wells

Title: I Am Not A Serial Killer (John Cleaver #1)
Author:  Dan Wells 
Year: 2010
Page: 272
Genre: Fiction - Young Adult, murder / mystery / thriller / suspense

FTC Disclosure: Borrowed from the library

Summary (from
John Wayne Cleaver is dangerous, and he knows it.

He’s spent his life doing his best not to live up to his potential.

He’s obsessed with serial killers, but really doesn’t want to become one. So for his own sake, and the safety of those around him, he lives by rigid rules he’s written for himself, practicing normal life as if it were a private religion that could save him from damnation.

Dead bodies are normal to John. He likes them, actually. They don’t demand or expect the empathy he’s unable to offer. Perhaps that’s what gives him the objectivity to recognize that there’s something different about the body the police have just found behind the Wash-n-Dry Laundromat---and to appreciate what that difference means.

Now, for the first time, John has to confront a danger outside himself, a threat he can’t control, a menace to everything and everyone he would love, if only he could.

Dan Wells’s debut novel is the first volume of a trilogy that will keep you awake and then haunt your dreams.

First Sentence:
Mrs Anderson was dead.

My Thoughts:

  • I chose this book because Tea Time with Marce loved it (and the rest of the trilogy - see her review here). I love the title and love reading about serial killers - so how could I say no? :) I liked the cover design too.
  • The book started out really well, I could identify with John (even though he is a teenage boy) - okay I don't think I am a sociopath (well I guess since I have never been evaluated I can't say whether I am or I am not for certain :) but I have an interest in criminal psychology and related stuff - that's why I like reading murder/mystery, love watching shows like CSI, Bones, Numb3rs etc. I have no desire to kill (hey, when playing paintball with my friends once in college, I was in hiding more often then shooting someone!) but I like to learn more about what goes through their mind. I think John was a well developed and memorable character, you could feel his struggle between good vs evil and you couldn't help but feel bad for him
  • Then around 100 pages, IT happened. IT made me go WTF? I thought there's surely a way to explain IT, but there will be a twist to tie things together or explain why IT happened. But nope, IT is IT. (NOTE - I am calling it "IT" because I read a review on goodreads that called it IT, and I thought IT is rather appropriate! Has nothing to do with Stephen King's book... ) Now for those of you who are on the fence about this book, but really don't mind some spoilers to see if this book is for you - here's the spoiler: [SPOILER] IT = a demon / monster. Yes a non human one. So this turns out to be a supernatural / paranormal book... which I totally was not prepared for since I don't usually read this genre - I had read some vampires and zombies YA but they just aren't really for me unless there is a good explanation... [/SPOILER]
  •  It was a fast read, and apart from John, I also liked the other characters, especially Dr Neblin, but they weren't quite as well developed (e.g. his mother, aunt and sister). But since this is the first book of a trilogy, maybe these characters would grow. However, due to the IT element, I don't think I will continue with the series...
  • I haven't done any author interview, but after reading this book, I felt for the first time a need to ask the author, why IT? I haven't contacted the author... maybe I should? Or maybe he had already answer this question in another author interview?
  • Note - I finally watched the first episode of Dexter, and this book had been compared to Dexter due to the topic. The first episode of Dexter was really slow... so I didn't finish the rest of the season. Some said Season 2 is better? I had read the first of the Dexter book, which I thought was just okay.


But you have to remember that predictors are just that -- they predict what might happen, they don't prophesy what will happen. (p3)

"The central question of psychological profiling... is not 'what is the killer doing,' but 'what is the killer doing that he doesn't have  to do?'" (p62)

Overall Rating:

3 Stars. Would have been higher if it didn't have IT (see review above to learn what IT was).

All reviews and posts are copyrighted by Christa @ Mental Foodie. Please do not use or reprint them without written permission.


  1. Thank you for reviewing, forgot you hadn't yet since I knew how you felt.

    I can't recommend the rest of the series to you because of the IT factor but the mind of John was totally amazing to me, I loved those parts for sure.

    I'm scared to try Dexter but definitely will.

  2. @Marce - I am way behind on my reviews. I still have 20+ to do! I definitely like John has a character (kinda like Flavia!) but I am just not into IT right now... maybe one day when I am in the mood... I'd only read the first Dexter book, it was a fun fluffy read but I don't remember much...

  3. Just saw your comment on my book review-- I completely agree with you about the supernatural plot twist lowering your review. It was so completely unexpected for me and it never recovered from that in my eyes.

    1. I wondered if I had known about the supernatural element beforehand would make any difference... I may not even pick up the book then. I don't regret reading it, I guess at least it lets me know where I stand when it comes to supernatural stuff!