Review: Mr. Monster
When we first started Elitist Book Reviews, we set things rolling with a review of a (then) UK only release. It was a YA Urban Fantasy/Horror novel by Dan Wells that goes by the title; I AM NOT A SERIAL KILLER (EBR Review) — a story about John Wayne Cleaver, a young teenager who has all the markers of becoming a serial killer. Think of it as a young Dexter (the Jeff Lindsay character), but much better written, better paced, more character-driven, and containing borderline paranormal aspects done right. In short, it was, for us, one of the best novels released in 2009.
This is the part where we say how much we love Dan Wells, and the character he created in John Cleaver. Not only does the second book, MR. MONSTER (Amazon), live up to the expectations of the fantastic first novel, it completely blows it out of the water. MR. MONSTER is better in every way than its predecessor. If I AM NOT A SERIAL KILLER was one of the best novels of 2009, MR. MONSTER is currently one of the best novels of the past FIVE years.
We. Freaking. Loved it.
Now, for your benefit, we should probably mention that we have read this book before. Like, a long time ago, in its draft form. If you haven’t figured it out by now, we are good friends with Dan. We are test readers for him. And before you ask, no, we are not biased. We are friends with plenty of authors whose work we don’t foam from the mouth over. Also, as a final point of interest, MR. MONSTER was just released in the UK, and won’t be available in the US until October-ish.
Anyways, back to the review.
There are a lot of reasons why we loved MR. MONSTER. First of all, we just love being able to read another story about John Wayne Cleaver. MR. MONSTER takes place several months after the events of I AM NOT A SERIAL KILLER, and from the first page, we hit the ground running. The final events of the first book have taken a toll on our teenage protagonist. Why is that important? Because Dan shows us within a few pages that all actions have consequences in his story-arc. John Cleaver is a character undergoing a metamorphosis, and it is a measure of Dan’s writing that he can pull it off so convincingly. His PoV is simply one of the best, and one of our favorites, in speculative fiction.
Another great thing about MR. MONSTER is its ability to stand as its own novel. Yes, it is a sequel. Yes, you should read the first book (to FINALLY be released in the US at the end of March). But really, MR. MONSTER is its own… uh… monster. Now what do we mean by this? Well obviously the book isn’t meant to be a stand alone. In fact, pay careful attention to how we said it could stand on its own, not be a standalone. The plot feels fairly episodic, but not in the ridiculous serial drama sort of fashion where the character never changes. No really, a person, in order to appreciate what the protagonist is going through, needs to read the first book. The first is all about preventing the release of John Wayne Cleaver’s inner turmoil. The second focuses, after all that trying to bottle it up, on what happens when it is released.
By setting up the book this way, in an episodic feel, Dan Wells neatly avoids the potential pitfalls of writing the middle book of a trilogy. This time around, John Cleaver is living with the consequences of his actions in book 1. He is dealing with an agent from the FBI. He continues his struggles with a dysfunctional family(Nick’s psychology education takes issue with this phrase, but we will use anyway). And, of course, another killer is on the loose. The contained arc of this story–not to mention the perfect pacing–make this novel one of the best reading experiences you are likely to have… until book 3. Yes, we are cruel for even mentioning it. And yes, we LOVE being cruel this way. Did we mention we have already read book 3 too? Neener Neener.
MR. MONSTER (the name of the book, and also the name John Cleaver gives to his inner killer) is a YA novel, but it is easily better than a majority of “older” fiction. Its accessibility makes it a read that (nearly) everyone can enjoy. However, if we could mention one thing, MR. MONSTER is quite a bit darker than the first book. There are some parts that disturbed us…even on the re-read (Well Steve WAS disturbed by the content, Nick IS disturbed… so it didn’t effect him.). It should in no way keep you from reading the book, but hey, our job is to keep you informed right?
With MR. MONSTER Dan Wells has given us an intense, riveting, gut-wrenching dive into the dark world of the demons within us.
We were asked recently to give a little blurb about MR. MONSTER for potential press stuff. Here is what we said:
With MR. MONSTER Dan Wells has given us an intense, riveting, gut-wrenching dive into the dark world of the demons within us. His main character, John Wayne Cleaver, manages to thoroughly freak us out while simultaneously being one of the most sympathetic characters in the horror genre. Let your own inner monster free, and immerse yourself in this dark, page-turning adventure.
Pretty good eh? Well, now you know what we think.
- Recommended Age: 15+. This is a tad higher than the rating we gave book one, but the content is a tad more intense in MR. MONSTER.
- Language: A little. Nothing major.
- Violence: Uh, yeah. Did we mention we were a little disturbed even though this was our second read-through?
- Sex: None. This is YA Urban Fantasy/Horror, not effing Gossip Girl (not that we know what that is or anything...)
We want to mention something really quick about book one, I AM NOT A SERIAL KILLER. If you haven’t read our review, or even if you have, make sure to go check out what we had to say, due to it’s upcoming US release (Amazon), and make sure you read IANASK itself.
Review for I AM NOT A SERIAL KILLER — click HERE (and the actual address for the clicking impaired: https://elitistbookreviews.com/2009/08/01/i-am-not-a-serial-killer/)
Also, if you’re so inclined, here are some places online where he contributes regularly:
Best Place to get the UK Versions of the John Cleaver Novels: