Review: I Don’t Want to Kill You

Posted: March 29, 2011 by in Books We Love (5/5 single_star) Meta: Dan Wells, Horror, Young Adult

One of the lessons we have learned during our time reading and reviewing novels is that it is hard just to get a book published. Making that first novel solid? Even harder. But you know what’s even MORE difficult than that? Writing a series where every novel gets better and better.

Dan Wells‘s horror series staring John Cleaver—a teenager who has all the early tendencies of a serial killer—comes to a conclusion (just for now hopefully) with I DON’T WANT TO KILL YOU (Amazon). The novel is fantastic, even better than last year’s terrific MR. MONSTER (EBR Review).

So what makes this novel so good? We’ll start with the character, John Wayne Cleaver. If you’ve read the previous two novels in the series (which hopefully you have, otherwise why the heck are you even reading this review?), you know that John is an odd sort of fellow. He obsesses over serial killers; their methods, their psychology and their motives. John also worries that he will become one, so he sets rules for himself. He also works (secretly from his classmates at school and the rest of the town) in the family mortuary. The great thing about John is that for every instance where he scares the reader with his macabre thoughts and actions, he also makes the reader laugh. The balance here is perfect, and even better than the previous novels. At the same time, however, Wells has made this character grow. Remember, the events of the three novels all take place collectively over a very short amount of time. John has seen and experienced a lot since he first faced off against the killer from I AM NOT A SERIAL KILLER (EBR Review), and it shows in I DON’T WANT TO KILL YOU. There are moments where the realizations of what he has done both harden and simultaneously soften John. It is such an interesting and unique dynamic that we couldn’t help but love completely.

I DON’T WANT TO KILL you follows John as he attempts to track another killer in town. This time though, the Killer is in town because John issued a challenge. He also finds himself in a relationship of sorts. Nothing having to do with emotions is ever clear-cut with John, and Wells’ writing really showed just how out of his element John really is when “dating.”

The pacing of the novel is smooth as butter 99% of the time. Wells’ writing is perfectly accessible while not feeling dumbed-down. We’ve read this novel twice now, and it was just as good, and fast-paced the second time as it was the first. Don’t expect to set the novel down once you get going. Give yourself a few free hours and down it one sitting—it’s what we do.

I DON’T WANT TO KILL YOU is a terrifying and absolutely thrilling novel. John Cleaver is a believable teenager who readers instantly love, and whose story readers will be sad to see come to an end (for now).

There are a few things we do feel like we should mention. First, it would have been nice to have been reminded of John’s physical appearance. It’s super minor, but would have been helpful all the same. There was really only one moment where the pacing, story and dialogue lagged. There is a moment later in the novel where John is talking on the phone to a Pastor. You’ll know it when you get to it, but for us it was really flat compared to the rest of the novel. Essentially the dialogue is wooden, and the Pastor acts like he’s under a compulsion spell. It’s a small section that is over quick, but it could have used a revision.

One of the main things that certain people complained about with Dan’s last novel, MR MONSTER, was about the continued supernatural angle. They complained that John was never really facing off against true humans, and that he only killed so-called “demons.” I DON’T WANT TO KILL YOU follows the same method. There is a strong supernatural element. Deal with it. It’s what sets this series apart from simply being “Young Dexter.” There are some fantastic lines towards the end of this novel where Wells sets this series apart, and makes it far better than the Jeff Lindsay series it is inevitably compared to.

I DON’T WANT TO KILL YOU is a terrifying and absolutely thrilling novel. John Cleaver is a believable teenager who readers instantly love, and whose story readers will be sad to see come to an end (for now). This novel—and this series—is one of the best we have read, and is a must read for EVERYONE. Easily one of the best novels of the year.

  • Recommended Age: 14+
  • Language: Like two words
  • Violence: Yeppers. Dan deals with suicides, murders and monsters. He also has his requisite embalming scenes.
  • Sex: Nope

Dan also participates in the Writing Excuses podcast. It’s pretty good. Go check it out.


  • Peter Ahlstrom says:

    I liked the first book, and felt the second book took it up only one notch. But the third book blows the first two away. It is that good.

    • I agree obviously. This was such an awesome book, and it held up under multiple reads. I just wish there were a 4th one RIGHT NOW. I'm crossing my fingers for a Campbell nomination for Dan (will be announced Sunday).

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