I have a confession to make. Is there a booth around here somewhere? No? Dang. Okay, so here it is: I sometimes end up relying on EBR to let me know about upcoming books by authors that I love. I know. It’s horrible. Please don’t throw tomatoes though. I’m allergic. I’m having a difficult time even approaching the possibility that I might have missed the release of a John Cleaver book. But, WHAM!, up comes our Best-Of post, and I find John Cleaver book six sitting on the list of our own “2017’s Most Anticipated”. What happened to five? I wasn’t exactly okay with that situation. So, I bought it, read it, and now I get to review it. Because apparently the review fairy is being kind this year and left me a blank space on her dance card. And also, somehow, no one else got to it before me. Praise.
OVER YOUR DEAD BODY is the second book in the second John Wayne Cleaver trilogy, or book five, depending on your preference. The two trilogies are distinct and unique enough that I tend to go with the former description of the books. I absolutely loved the original trilogy. The character of John, with his strengths and weaknesses, his trials and triumphs, was sheer genius. So I was uber excited to hear about the new series, which started with THE DEVIL’S ONLY FRIEND. While I enjoyed that one and thought it was a great book, it seemed to me that there was significantly less “John” in it because of the sheer number of other characters that were surrounding him and Brooke. Time spent on them, and their interactions, left less time for the deeply introspective struggles I loved reading about in the originals. At the end of that one, (mild spoilers) John and Brooke were able to set out on their own though, and so I was really looking forward to this book and had hopes that I’d see in it more of the stuff I loved from the originals.
And that’s exactly what I got.
John and Brooke are on the run, and they’re also not. John and the myriad thousands of personalities within Brooke that the Withered (demon) Nobody collected over her lifespan before John killed her, are slowly making their way through the list of Withered in Nobody’s memory and taking them out one by one. Pretty much the same job description as in the previous book, only this time the two are on their own. The big problem with being on the lamb though is that they have a very limited supply of money and the hidden caches of supplies they’re finding, with the help of a journal of a now-dead FBI agent, are few and far between. But their list of Withered is also growing very short, and if they can only make it through these last few, then they can figure out some other way to live.
From a storyline perspective, the novel is pretty simple. John and Brooke find a couple of Withered and have to figure them out before trying to kill them. This process can sometimes be simple and sometimes be hard, but it’s always interesting for me. Wells continues to come up with intriguing ways to warp the concept of the Withered into something new, and although this process of tracking down and killing the Withered can sometimes be a long process, the internal struggles of John and his external difficulties with the erratic personality-switching and suicide-prone character of Brooke were easily able to keep me engaged throughout.
Each interaction with a new Withered changes John, and in this book I started to see larger variances within his personality. In some cases, he’s becoming more intense about following his rules, and in others he’s pushing himself in the direction of sociopathic release. He’s becoming more of a hero in his quest against the Withered, but also becoming more like the serial killer he’s always tried to keep himself from becoming. He’s coming more to understand intensely personal feelings like love, and yet trying so hard to push it all away. In essence, this tale seemed to show me a John Wayne Cleaver that is becoming increasingly unstable, perhaps even approaching a breaking point.
And I loved every minute of it.
I think that those coming into this book looking for another amazing fight against the Withered will be less satisfied than those watching to see what choices John will make as he fights against the Withered, the Brooke/Nobody multiplicity, and most importantly himself. Like the books of the original trilogy, these books focused on what is, for me, the most important and interesting aspect of the entire story: John Wayne Cleaver. And the ending. The ending made me more excited to see the culmination of this story than just about any other story that’s currently sitting in my queue.
Not going to miss the release of the next one, I can tell you that. Already got it preordered. And you should too.
Recommended Age: 16+
Language: Very mild, although one guy does say “Eff” a couple times
Violence: Pretty high, some gore, but mostly emotional intensity
Sex: A few references