Review: I Am Not A Serial Killer

Posted: August 1, 2009 by in Books We Love (5/5 single_star) Meta: Dan Wells, Horror, Young Adult

Dan Wells has crafted something extraordinary with his first novel, I AM NOT A SERIAL KILLER (Amazon). Our opinions are obviously superior to the rest, so you should believe us without question.

John Wayne Cleaver is the protagonist of the book, and as you find out very early on, he isn’t your average teenager. His troubles go much deeper than most, and are much more serious. You see, he worries that he might become a serial killer. He has all the tendencies of a sociopath, and he is very aware of how dangerous they are.

John is obsessed with serial killers (he even writes reports on them in school)–how could he not be considering his tendencies, and the fact that he is named John Wayne (though his mother swears she didn’t name him after the serial killer John Wayne Gacy). John, a boy in High School who also works at his family mortuary, begins to notice a strange pattern in the murders that are taking place in his small town. His personal investigation of the murders puts him in a unique position to expose the killer, and also puts him in danger of losing himself to his inner sociopath.

One of the things we especially liked about I AM NOT A SERIAL KILLER (and therefore you are required to like it too), was that it doesn’t seem to follow the typical public’s view of “horror.” It seems like people are hell-bent on assuming that horror is synonymous with hack-and-slash and blood-and-gore. Guess what? That’s garbage, and Dan proves it in this amazing novel–the first in a trilogy–that the old-school flavor of horror built on suspense and character development is the way horror should be written and enjoyed.

When we read I AM NOT A SERIAL KILLER, we somehow managed to feel pleasantly disturbed, amused, horrified, terrified, and awed.

Dan’s writing is clever, and extremely well done. There are moments where the novel seems YA, and others where is straight-up Horror/Supernatural Horror. We think it was this accessible blend that really made this book excellent, in our not-so-humble opinions.

When we read this novel, we somehow managed to feel pleasantly disturbed, amused, horrified, terrified, and awed. How often can one book evoke that range of emotions, and make you pleased about all of them? I AM NOT A SERIAL KILLER does just that, and more.

Now, some people may mistakenly draw parallels to the Jeff Lindsay’s character, Dexter. First of all, we know Dan, and he had this idea long before Dexter was even popular. Second, Dan handles the young sociopath infinitely better than Lindsay handles his young Dexter segments. Lastly, Dan’s book shifts dramatically from normal Horror to a near-Supernatural Horror part way through the novel (and it succeeds where Lindsay’s 3rd Dexter novel turned into complete crap). This book isn’t like Dexter. It surpasses Dexter on every level.

Don’t be afraid to pick up this novel. Indulge your “inner demon”, if you will. It is incredible, and the sequels that will come out over the next year are even better. This will be one of those novels that you will find impossible to put down, and when you’ve finished, you will want to recommend it to everyone you know.

  • Recommended Age: 13+ (the sequels, just so you know, should probably tack on another couple years)
  • Language: None
  • Violence: Well, duh. It gets awesome and crazy at times. You did read the title of the book right?
  • Sex: None

It is our pseudo-professional opinion (in other words, do it now) that you should wander over to Dan’s website and check it out.

Lastly, Dan is one of the founding members of the group that does the podcast WRITING EXCUSES. Along with Brandon Sanderson and Howard Tayler, WRITING EXCUSES is a podcast that talks about the ins-and-outs of the business, and advice on how to get it done.

Writing Excuses

This review was originally published on August 01, 2009, and was modified on March 8, 2010 to prepare for the US release.


  • Fellfrosch says:

    Maybe it's your superior opinions, or maybe it's the handsomeness of the author in question, but I find myself obliged to agree with this review in every point.

  • Reader says:

    I bought this just because you guys said it was awesome. And I really liked it! Can't wait for the next book!

  • musewinters says:

    I just finished reading this book and I must say, I enjoyed it quite a bit. It was better than I expected. I found this book because I am part of a monthly book club and I was like , “why not?” I'm really glad that I gave it a go and I can't wait for the next 2 books.

  • mtbikemom says:

    Who cares if this is YA or not? To Kill A Mockingbird would probably be categorized YA if it came out today, I think. This was the perfect end-of-summer thriller. Rang true from beginning to end! Great character study and, for me, a bit of a parable.

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