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Profile Image for Dan Wells.
Author 61 books5,659 followers
December 30, 2008
Quite possibly the best book ever written.
Profile Image for Miranda Reads.
1,589 reviews155k followers
December 10, 2020
Stuck at home? Got some time on your hands? Want to start a long series? But you don't want a dud?

Check out this booktube video all about which series are worth your time (and which ones aren't)!

Here's the Written Review!

What if a serial killer...doesn't want to become a murderer?

John Wayne Cleaver knows he has all the hallmarks of a serial killer.

He likes to stalk people, hurt animals and fantasizes about killing friends and family.
Fear is a ... it's a weird thing, when you think about it. People are only afraid of other things, they're never afraid of themselves.
John is afraid of himself - or at least he's afraid of what he could become.

So, he's created a set of rules avoid any situation or thought that could encourage those traits.

If he notices himself following someone, he will not look at them for a week. If he wants to hurt someone, he has to say something nice.

He has rules to help him cope and manages quite well(ish) to pass for a normal kid.

Yet, if another serial killer comes to town...what would be safer?

Following his rules or allowing himself to indulge his killer tendencies and hunt down a murderer?

And to top it all, there's a cute girl at school and his mom is trying to hook them up. He doesn't know what's worse, that it's his mom whose facilitating this girl's interaction with a potential serial killer or the fact that he likes her back.

There is a fabulous twist that brings the term "serial killer" into a whole new light.

I love how John is doing his absolute best to curb all killer-instincts AND he has a great family to support him.

This is a crazy-good mixture of familial love and homicidal urges wrapped up in one book.

YouTube | Blog | Instagram | Twitter | Facebook | Snapchat @miranda_reads
Profile Image for Stephen.
1,516 reviews11k followers
April 22, 2011
My reaction when a third of the way through the book “IT” happened was something like…

For those of you that have read the book, you know EXACTLY what I am talking about. For everyone else, let me explain as best I can without any spoilers.

Our story begins in a small town with a wonderful introduction to John Wayne Cleaver. John is 15 years old boy who is obsessed with serial killers. This obsession is the result of he himself having many of the traits and characteristics of a serial killer and struggling desperately against his inner “urges.” John has decided that by learning how these people act and what drives them, he can determine what actions to avoid in order to keep from killing anyone...Sounds pretty sensible to me, but then again I've never killed anyone....well, except for food and that doesn't count.

Uh...sorry about that, just kidding..heh...heh...Anyway, to help John in his quest not to commit heinous butchery, he has developed strict rules that he follows in order to try and be (or at least appear) normal. For example, if someone makes John angry he will compliment them. If he finds himself observing someone, even unintentionally, he will make himself avoid that person for one week to avoid “stalking” them. These were very interesting and this part of the book was excellent.

Now, for those of you that read or watch Dexter, comparisons to that series are both accurate and appropriate. Apart from their age, the only significant difference between the characters is that John has not yet killed. Apart from that the similarities are certainly there. They both have “routines” they follow to be normal. They both “work” around dead bodies (Dexter is a blood-splatter analyst while John’s family are the local morticians) and they both struggle with “their inner monster.” Regardless, I was absolutely loving the book as John (like Dexter) is a fascinating character and the descriptions of his daily routines and his struggle against his inner monster were very well done.

In addition to learning about John, the central plot of the book involves the discovery that an actual serial killer is on the loose in John’s small town. It seems that some madman is killing older men and stealing parts of their body. Of course, John is fascinated and begins trying to figure out who the killer is and how he is selecting his victims.
Okay, let's just pause and take a moment to appreciate how we got to this point because the road is gonna get pretty rough ahead.
Ready to continue....Okay, so up to this point, everything about the book was excellent. As I finished the first 100 pages my rating was sitting in high 4 star and maybe even 5 star territory and I was just as happy as I could be....AND THEN...ON PAGE 121...EVERYTHING CHANGED....BECAUSE....IT HAPPENED…and the book completely:
This was a complete FULL STOP,WTF just happened moment for me that left me stunned and bewildered. It was like the “infamous” end of the movie The Crying Game, except that while that was shocking and excellent...this was just shocking and painful. Very, very painful...

Well, neither I nor the book ever really recovered from IT. IT kinda took the wind out of my sails. Now the rest of the book was not horrible and there were some interesting portions in the rest of the book. Unfortunately, after IT I was basically disengaged from the narrative. I just felt….empty…

So, overall the book was good but it could have been great if IT had not happened. Unfortunately, IT did happen and when IT happened, IT kinda ruined it for me…Oh well shIT happens!!!

P.S. For those of you who have requested to know what IT is, here you go...
Profile Image for  ⊱ Sonja ⊰ ❤️.
2,295 reviews409 followers
May 24, 2022
Dan Wells steht schon lange auf meiner Leseliste, aber erst jetzt habe ich es geschafft, ein Buch von ihm zu lesen. Und ich bin total überrascht.
Ich hatte einen Thriller erwartet, aber das hier war... anders.
Trotzdem aber auch gut.
Es ist schon durchaus ein Thriller, aber mit Fantasy-Elementen, und damit hatte ich gar nicht gerechnet.
Fesseln konnte mich die Geschichte trotzdem sehr, so dass ich die Fortsetzung auch lesen möchte.
Profile Image for Anne.
3,922 reviews69.3k followers
October 28, 2019
Alright. I really didn't quite know what I was getting into with this book.
I thought it was some sort of a YA mystery/thriller with a young sociopath as the main character. And, yes. It is that.
But it's also a paranormal story with real demons in it.
So...yeah. I think that's something you should probably know upfront.


Ok, so the gist is that this kid named John, who is trying his dead-level best not to turn into a serial killer, ends up becoming the only one who can save his town from potentially the most sympathetic murdering demon I've ever read about.
Or listened to, since this was an audiobook that I downloaded on the fly because it was 'currently available' from my library and I needed something quick - which explains why I didn't realize it had all the spooky monster shit in advance.
Anyway, the point is, John's sleepy small town is being rocked by a vicious killer and everyone is in a tizzy.


Spoilery things happen, people die, & John has to deal with a real demon and his inner demon before the story is over. I enjoyed the dark humor and thought the narrator (John Allen Nelson) did a fantastic job of bringing the whole thing to life.
I can see there are quite a few books in this series, but I feel as though if I wanted to stop here, I could. I'm not sure yet, to be honest.
We'll see.
Profile Image for Mareeva.
361 reviews5,128 followers
September 20, 2021
4 stars

How do you stop yourself from becoming a serial killer....when your first and main obsession are serial killers?

Simple. You make rules.

That's what a 15 year old sociopath named John Wayne Cleaver did.

"I just wish I knew why," She said. "Why what?"
"Why you're so obsessed with serial killers."
"Everybody's got to have a hobby,"

If he watches one person for too long, he ignores them for a whole week

He likes to form.....let's say fixations because "obsession" isn't John's favourite word. Fixations he tends to follow around, watch through windows and learn everything about.


He will not burn things.

Because one of the traits 95% of all serial killers share is pyromania, as well as bed-wetting and animal cruelty. Luckily for John, he possesses all three.


When John was a child he dissected a live gopher. Took it apart layer by layer.

I was killing animals and taking them apart, and I had all the emotional reaction of a kid playing with legos.

So he promised himself not to mess with animals, in any way. No petting, no looking, no owning, sometimes he wouldn't even go into a house with an animal in it.


If you ever find yourself knowing a John Cleaver, a teenage loner and a potential murderer who gives out a lot of compliments, don't think you're safe because he says your hair looks nice every day.

Chances are he'll kill you first.

If he ever has violent thoughts about someone, give them a compliment


This one is pretty obvious..
"I have a rule about not hurting people".....


..This one is pretty funny
....."You don't have a rule about threatening to kill people?"
"It hadn't come up yet," I said. "I have one now."


But John is not the only monster in his nowhere town. there's a serial killer on the loose.

A serial killer who actually happens to be a demon. Yes like an actual demon with claws, sharp teeth and shapeshifting abilities.

No police officer would ever believe him and those who saw....wouldn't live to tell the tale.

So what's the plan of action? Shed every rule he has ever made for himself, embrace his dark side and finally do the one thing he has always tried to withhold: Kill.

The story in itself is very predictable but that didn't stop me from really enjoying this book. I loved the writing style. I don't think it's an easy job to write from a POV of a sociopath. But the author managed to make his thoughts pack the apathetic indifference of a person who doesn't understand emotions without sounding robotic. The narration was full of feeling, confusion, doubt, self-discovery and inner demons that successfully showed how developed John's character is.

"Don't make the mistake of thinking that sociopaths can't feel - they feel very keenly, they just don't know what to do with their emotions."

At first, I really had no idea how to feel about the whole demon serial killer situation. This book wasn't marketed and genuinely did not feel at all like a fantasy. But as I read I actually started to quite like it. It gave a fairly predictable book an edge that added to the suspense.

Besides, this story wasn't just a paranormal murder mystery. Mainly it's about a lonely boy living with a disorder and compulsions he desperately tries and fails to keep at bay. This book takes a dive into the mind of serial killers and explores the psychological as well as emotional aspects behind their actions. I wouldn't say it's super groundbreaking or anything I haven't heard before, but it sure as hell was interesting and at times truly entertaining to read.

You probably think it would be creepy to have a real monster hiding inside of you, but trust me - it's far, far worse when the monster is really just your own mind.

PS: if you liked this book then check out The Girl in 6E. Very similar concepts.

PS PS: Don't bother watching the movie.
Profile Image for Mort.
652 reviews1,317 followers
April 19, 2018
Surprisingly good...
With all the mixed reviews I've read, I wasn't expecting to enjoy it so much.

John Wayne Cleaver is a TEENAGER. A loner and freak. His mother and aunt owns a mortuary and he helps with the dead bodies when they arrive. His father has all but disappeared from his life.
John Wayne Cleaver is a SOCIOPATH. He is obsessed with serial killers and knows exactly what he is, but he makes himself follow some self-imposed rules to keep from becoming a killer himself.
John Wayne Cleaver is the only one who knows the serial killer in their town is actually a DEMON. Will he be able to stop it? More important, will he even want to?

When I came across the term "YA", I really thought it would be too tame for my taste. But the author, whether knowingly or not, made this story deeper than what appears on the surface.
Yes, it is an entertaining story, but underneath it all some social issues are raised. You can decide for yourself whether you find it interesting or not, but I liked the fact that it made me think about some things there are seemingly no correct answers for:

At what age does a child realize that they are not normal, unable to feel like everybody else?
Do they all pretend in order to fit in, but will they be forever the outsider looking in?
How much damage does a broken marriage do to a child, especially if one parent disappears as if writing off that child?
How essential in physical human contact, especially from a mother as a single parent?
Can a "demon" be more human than a "normal" person?
Whose side will you, the reader, pick in this story - the sociopath or the demon?

Very glad I took the chance with this one.
Profile Image for Kemper.
1,390 reviews6,828 followers
April 21, 2011
Ever since Hannibal Lector flirted with Clarice Starling by telling her about his favorite recipes, it seems like every other thriller features some kind of deranged but brilliant serial killer. It’s gotten beyond boring, but occasionally some writer will manage to come up with a fresh perspective on the genre. Jeff Lindsay’s Dexter series put a unique twist on the notion of the serial killer. (Or at least he did until he wrote the utterly crappy Dexter in the Dark.) Now Dan Wells is taking a new approach to the concept.

John Wayne Cleaver is a teen-age boy who lives with his mother at the funeral home she runs with her twin sister. John has had a history of bed wetting, killing small animals and starting fires, and he’s very fond of helping prepare the dead bodies for funerals. He’s also obsessed with serial killers, and his reading about them has made him realize that he’s already showing all the classic signs of becoming one.

John sets strict rules for himself to keep from becoming a killer, but he’s still considered an outcast and a freak by his classmates. He also has to see a therapist who he tells about his efforts to not engage in mass murder. However, when a string of grisly murders occur that terrify the town, John can barely contain his excitement that a serial killer is operating nearby. However, John will find out that this killer is worse than even his deranged mind can imagine.

The first third of his book had me completely intrigued. I loved the notion of someone fighting against their own inclinations. John has so fully accepted the idea that he is a serial killer, that he never stops to question why he’d work so hard to avoid becoming one if he truly is a sociopath.

However, the book takes a wild turn that I didn't really enjoy. Plus, I could never get entirely over the similarities to the Dexter series.

It’s a quick read and the first in a planned trilogy. It was good enough I’ll check out the second volume, but I was far more interested in John’s psychology than the plot.
Profile Image for Cecilia.
277 reviews253 followers
May 30, 2022
Re lectura (mayo, 2021): 3⭐️
Primera lectura (mayo, 2019): 4⭐️

Me lleve una grata sorpresa con este libro; superando todas mis expectativas.

El personaje principal, John Cleaver, un adolescente sociópata que se encuentra en constante lucha y autocontrol contra su demonio interno; la forma en que este personaje acepta su diagnóstico se vuelve en algunas ocasiones bastante humorística e irónica, en cambio, en otras es bastante espeluznante (esta combinación fue una de las cosas que más me gustó 😬).

La única parte que se podría decir que me desconcertó y que quizás no me gusto, fue el giro de la trama hacia lo sobrenatural, sintiendose irreal la historia.

En fin, un libro entretenido de lectura fácil, bastante juvenil, con un argumento inteligente (se nota que ek autor estudio o le gusta leer sobre sociopatas), con varios giros inesperados y con un personaje principal encariñable ☺️.
Profile Image for Stacy.
21 reviews42 followers
November 27, 2011
I wanted to read this book because of my fascination with serial killers and the intriguing slant in the main character's relationship with himself.
While reading, I was put off by Wells' writing style. It came off as juvenile in that he writes as though he doesn't trust his readers to figure out fairly obvious things for themselves. He posts many unnecessary/rhetorical questions that the reader is (hopefully, or rather should be) already wondering about on her own. It's muddled in redundancy.
All of this I could have put aside, and tried to, for the sake of the still intriguing concept and somewhat likable main character. However, a few more than 100 pages in, it took an unforgivable turn for the worse. I don't want to spoil anything for those who haven't read it yet and may still want to, so I will spare you any sort of real detail. Suffice it to say that it became very obvious fairly quickly that this book wasn't one I would care for in the slightest. I put it down without finishing it, which is something I usually have a hard time doing, but it was fairly easy with this one.
Profile Image for Coos Burton.
767 reviews1,301 followers
September 6, 2016
"No soy un serial killer" fue para mí un gran descubrimiento, definitivamente es de aquellos libros por los que no daba mucho, pero me terminó sorprendiendo de una manera positiva. Me gustó la forma en la que la historia está narrada, al ser del género young adult yo esperaba un tono mucho más light que el que me encontré. Los crímenes en esta novela están perfectamente construidos y detallados, como para revolverle las tripas a quienes estén dispuestos a adentrarse en los avernos de un adolescente obsesionado con los asesinos seriales, y que alimenta su morbo ayudando a embalsamar cuerpos en la empresa fúnebre que lleva su madre. El hecho de toparme con términos médicos en los procedimientos de embalsamamiento hace que la descripción de los sucesos sea más puntual, y por lo tanto, más gráfica y explícita, y puedo asegurar que logró impresionarme bastante.

Estaré realizando la respectiva video-reseña en mi canal, por lo que no daré mucha más información, pero indefectiblemente, otro libro que rompe con mis expectativas y prejuicios, bien por Dan Wells. Definitivamente voy a continuar con esta saga para ver qué me deparan los siguientes títulos.
Profile Image for Claude's Bookzone (on hiatus).
1,501 reviews201 followers
August 26, 2020
I'm struggling between a 3.5 or 4 Stars. 4 Stars for the story but 3.5 for the actual writing etc. I'll go with a 3.75 rounded up to 4 Stars.

CW: Gruesome murder scenes, thoughts of killing, thoughts of animal cruelty, previous acts of animal cruelty, pyromania ( well he lights fires as a release instead of fulfilling his desire to kill), deaths of loved ones, described brutality, described preparation of bodies by mortician.

John is an expert on serial killers. He understands their motives, needs and methods. Why? Because he has all the markers to become one himself. He has been diagnosed with conduct disorder.

Sociopathy 101
A conduct disorder is a mental disorder diagnosed in childhood or adolescence that basically means they display some quite anti-social behaviour. If the behaviour continues until after the age of 18 they may be diagnosed with 'anti-social personality disorder' which is sometimes called sociopathy. A sociopath is a manipulative person who basically doesn't care about other people's feelings or what is 'right' or 'wrong'. They show almost no guilt or remorse for any of their actions. I believe a psychopath is the one that has zero empathy.
Disclaimer: I just googled the above and have no expertise or qualifications on this topic. This is just a basic summary of a group of very complex mental disorders.

I thought it was important to look at a rough definition of conduct disorder because we are included in all of John's innermost thoughts about death and how much delight he takes in thinking about the process of killing someone. He gives some quite vivid descriptions of his fantasies. That being said this was definitely YA fiction. Whilst there are some gruesome scenes the voice is distinctly adolescent. I know some people have drawn comparisons to the 'I Hunt Killers' series by Barry Lyga, but I think the John Cleaver series is a lot less sinister and dark. Seriously, I was traumatised by book 3 of 'I Hunt Killers.'

I love stories where inherently 'bad' people struggle against their inner demons and this is a fine example of that. The very fact that John is in fact struggling with his urges and trying to suppress them shows us that he may not develop into a fully blown sociopath or psychopath. I liked the tension created by the author as John draws closer to the inevitable showdown between two twisted minds. I do think the lack of empathy thing was a bit laboured at points. I know this was being highlighted so we could really understand the inner turmoil he faced as he tried to stick to the rules he had set for himself to control his murderous urges, but there was a lot of repetition of this idea. I loved his coping strategy of saying nice things to people he wanted to hurt. It made for some lighter moments.

Can John control his figurative inner demons in order kill the literal demon terrorizing his town with gruesome murders?

A gritty thriller with a demonic twist.
Profile Image for La loca de los libros .
295 reviews116 followers
May 3, 2022
Escogí esta pequeña novela por elección de mi hija mayor de 6 añitos! Si ya lo digo yo que esta muchacha apunta maneras 😂

A lo que vamos, aquí nos encontramos una trama muy directa y adictiva. Donde el joven John Wayne Cleaver de 15 años trata de mantener a raya a su "monstruo" interior.
Pero lo que no sabe es que tendrá que lidiar con algo mucho peor. Y es que parece ser que el mismísimo demonio se pasea libremente por las calles de Clayton despedazando a quien cree oportuno.

El comienzo es muy prometedor. Te encuentras con bastantes detalles sobre el proceso de embalsamado de cadáveres, muy escabroso y descriptivo, cosa que me ha encantado.
El joven John vive con su madre y su tía en una casa que está justo encima de la funeraria que regentan, de ahí que encuentre ese lado oscuro en parte controlado y saciado por la profesión que desde bien pequeño ayuda a desempeñar a su madre.

Poco a poco, a medida que pasen los días, se irá instaurando el caos en la pequeña población. Las muertes cada vez están menos espaciadas y el pánico está calando entre los habitantes.

👌Es una pequeña novela muy ligera que podría catalogarse dentro del género juvenil porque los que ya estamos curtidos en este tipo de novelas se nos puede quedar un poco corta y previsible. Pero cumple con su cometido de mantenernos unas horas bien absortos en su lectura.

¿Podrá John salvar al pueblo desatando a su monstruo interior? Lleva mucho tiempo conteniéndolo y cree que ha llegado la hora de darle rienda suelta.

📚 Por supuesto, ya tengo la segunda parte de esta entretenida trilogía (Mr. Monster) esperando a ser leída. Por desgracia en nuestro país no se han traducido más 😒

🔪 "Entonces me pregunté si todo aquello lo hacía para salvar a los buenos o si simplemente quería matar al malo. También me pregunté si eso importaba." 

📖 Próxima lectura:
"Sol de brujas" - Félix G. Modroño.

📚 📚
Profile Image for Jason Brown (Toastx2).
325 reviews17 followers
November 30, 2021
I think my wife is a serial killer waiting to be unleashed on the world.

I had not heard of this novel but ran across a Powell’s Books author reading late last month by Dan Wells. I read a summary of his recent book and then scheduled appropriately to go and listen to him. Jenn went with me and whispered creepy serial killer/mass murderer stats in my ear.. it was disturbing how much she knew.. When Dan asked people to name 5 killers in order to win a t-shirt, she stayed quiet and named 14 under her breath. no one but the Author could compete with her, naming less than five, 2 of which Wells had used as examples……

please send the police after her FIRST if i ever drop off the radar (after she reads this, my stats will weigh against me.).. DO NOT enter our home, make sure to arrive with witnesses, and be careful if she offers you refreshments, it is a distraction tactic. Bring gelato if you plan on surviving..

so, the long –> short of it is that i bought a copy of I AM NOT A SERIAL KILLER. Dan Wells scribbled his John Hancock into the cover and i went home.. I had some must reads already waiting that needed to be pushed through my brain machine before i could get to this.. How i waited nearly a month, i really do not know….. it was very, very good…

John Wayne Cleaver is a 15 year old boy in a small town. Overall he is a nice kid who just can’t find any connection to the people around him. he has only one friend and is a freak among his peers. He grew up in a family of morticians. He helps out around the house and business. John is an outcast because he firmly believes he will grow up to be a serial killer.

John does not WANT to be a serial killer, but he thinks that the universe has stacked the deck against him, starting with his name. His namesake is an actor who shares a name with a killer (c’mon pilgrim..). His father is Sam Cleaver, making him the Son of Sam. His last name is a tool for cutting meat.

Interestingly enough, the town John lives in has a new killer hanging around, killing people and leaving their bodies lying about with parts missing. John obsessively investigates the killer, attempting to determine his motives and methodologies. This is in part because of his interest in the subject matter, and in part because of his fear of joining the ranks.. the more he knows, the better prepared he will be.

This really was a great book. IANASK is a mild thriller, and a must read for anyone who has found themselves spending an afternoon reading through the Internet Crime Library or whiling away nights watching true crime shows on TV. Wells did a great job breaking down the mind of a killer and really leaves you mentally cheering for the 15 year old sociopath that is the main character. You know he could turn out to be a horrible person in a couple years, but hope for the best because really, his is just a great kid. classically misunderstood.

The book is portioned well, focusing on John’s internal struggle as much as his obsessions with finding and stopping the local killer.

It is a little gory in some spots, but not overly so.. of course, i could also be desensitized :).. ok, well, just assume that i am desensitized..

One of my favorite aspects of John Cleaver is that he has already identified character traits of his that make him fear for his future. He has created a series of rules that will help himself suppress these character traits. These rules are mandatory to keep himself from crossing over, they keep his darker side in check.. ignoring these rules and he threatens to unleash his darkness, self named “Mr. Monster”
Examples of his rules:
- To keep stalker qualities subdued, he avoids people for a full week if he finds he is taking too much interest in them. too many conversations and he cuts off contact. if he finds himself following them home, they get back burner’d.

- If he feels like doing bodily harm on someone, he should distract himself by being overly nice and saying nice things about them. Thinking and saying nice tings tends to push back the bad… you know the classic “Think Positive” motivational posters? He should have one tattooed on the back of his hand.

- He must hand out with Max, another outcast in his grade. having max as a friend makes him more normal. after all, sociopaths do not have friends, so having a friend combats his sociopathy.

The book is humorous and intense in all the right places.
If you pick this book up, let me know what you thought of the Halloween Dance chapter. It cracked me up enough that i read sections aloud to people who were uncomfortable with a large insistent bearded man enthusiastically reading aloud a book titled ‘I am not a serial killer’… don’t get why that would make people feel “off” but it apparently does :)

surprised that i still have a job considering the number of people who gave me uncomfortable looks on the elevator or in the break room.

This was book one in a trilogy, i am very interested to see how the characters in this series turn out. Mr Wells, Get to releasing the books.. NOW! if you need someone to read them in advance, i would gladly volunteer :) (hint hint)
Profile Image for Monica.
Author 4 books268 followers
August 21, 2017
Hace como dos años que lo leí y debo admitir que me gustó bastante en ese tiempo. Una historia muy oscura para estar en la rama juvenil, algunos detalles me parecieron innecesarios, pero la trama me mantuvo en enganchada hasta la ultima pagina.

Profile Image for Victoria Schwab.
Author 27 books103k followers
June 12, 2011
Well that was not what I expected! But still very good. I have a weakness for serial killers.
August 14, 2015

You are evil, said myself. You are Mr. Monster. You are nothing. You are me.

Well well well...what an odd slice of fun this was. Simplistic and understated, this book really doesn't try to be anything other than what it says it is, making for not only a fun, easy read, but a very touching one, as well. It's not easy to read about a diagnosed sociopath...well, at least not for the average person. For me? It felt more authentic and real. I became entwined and engrossed with this character in the early stages of the book, making it enjoyable from page one all the way until the end. And then there's that damn middle part that was so...ah, fuck it-It made me laugh. Hard.

"So you have coincidental links to two serial killers," he said. "That's a little odd, I admit, but I'm still not seeing a cosmic conspiracy against you."
"My last name is 'Cleaver,'" I said. "How many people do you know who are named after two serial killers and a murder weapon?"

I mean seriously?? He really went there? You've got to be kidding me. And it odd that, in the end, I kind of loved where this went??? I can now see why some people didn't like the direction this novel took, but I actually, after my initial shock, LOVED IT! It took a bit, I'll admit, to get past the absurdity with which this was presented. But let me ask you this: For me, being the type of reader that I am, why wouldn't I love the fact that this little twist made it all the more perilous? Yeah, it was totally unbelievable. Yeah, it was an odd direction to go. And, yes, it will not be for everyone. But, for whatever reason, I decided I really liked it-Logic be damned.

I think that fire is more alive than we are-brighter, hotter, more sure of itself and where it wants to go. Fire doesn't settle; fire doesn't tolerate; fire doesn't "get by." Fire does.
Fire is.

I really did have an internal struggle on whether or not I liked what was happening in this one. I wrestled with the idea that, while I am in love with these types of books, this was really dumb. But it comes down to more than that, it comes down to if the positive outweighs the negative...and, for me, it did. And that big positive that made this whole book worth it? Our main character, John.

People scurry around, doing their little jobs and raising their little families and shouting their meaningless emotions to the world, and all the while you just watch from the sidelines, bewildered. This drives some sociopaths to feel superior, as if the whole of humanity were simply animals to be hunted or put down; others feel a hot, jealous rage, desperate to have what they cannot. I simply felt alone, one leaf sitting miles away from a giant, communal pile.

Emotionless, lacking empathy, and a social outcast, John was my favorite type of character, at the moment. Well, I like a little more empathy in my boys, but, hey-You get what I mean. Not without the quirky inner monologue or the twisted humor of the writing would this book have succeeded-of that I'm sure. John would not be a likable character to read about had we not gotten his odd rationalizations of the goings on around him or the way he views human flaws, such as love and loyalty. In a way, he's broken. He longs to feel something, anything, if only to be like those around him-He can't even cry. He gets jealous that others have this ability, and that's why he is so fascinated with serial killers-weird sounding, I know! But, when you feel like you're on the verge of being one yourself, it only makes sense to latch onto the one connection in this world you are sure is your only link to humanity.

"You're weird, man," said Max, taking another bite of his sandwich. "That's all there is to say. Someday you're going to kill a whole bunch of people-probably more than ten, because you're such an overachiever-and then they're going to have me on TV and ask if I saw this coming, and I'm going to say,'Hell yes, that guy was seriously screwed up.'"
"Then I guess I have to kill you first," I said.

You heard me right-He thinks he is destined to be a serial killer. And, because of this, he has a set of rules he rigidly follows. And it has worked...until a serial killer comes to town. Every day his 'monster' threatens to leak out, to identify with this new murderer-sorry, sorry, not murderer...SERIAL KILLER-in town. But when he finds out who is killing, he takes responsibility into his own hands. Who better to find a serial killer...than a destined-to-be serial killer?

"I've been clinically diagnosed with sociopathy," I said. "Do you know what that means?"
"It means you're a freak," he said.
"It means that you're about as important to me as a cardboard box," I said. "You're just a thing-a piece of garbage that no one's thrown away yet. Is that what you want me to say?"
"Shut up," said Rob. He was still acting tough, but I could see his bluster was starting to fail-he didn't know what to say.
"The thing about boxes," I said, "is that you can open them up. Even though they're completely boring on the outside, there might be something interesting on the inside. So while you're saying all of these stupid, boring things, I'm imagining what it would be like to cut you open and see what you've got in there."

-lol, is it deranged I laughed and loved that?

Stellar, spot-on writing, wicked humor, and absolutely gruesome scenes that make you think deeper about life in general....I really liked this book. And, after looking at book two ratings and reviews, it seems book two is even darker, grittier, better. I cannot wait until I get the time to read book two. Because once John's exterior cracked? I fell in love with him. I can't wait to see how he wrestles with his dark side.

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Profile Image for Cynn.
182 reviews173 followers
April 30, 2019

«La noción de que yo fuera un sociópata no era nueva para mí; sabía desde hacía mucho tiempo que no conectaba con los otros. No les entendía y ellos tampoco me comprendían a mí, y fuera cual fuese el lenguaje emocional que utilizara, aprenderlo parecía estar fuera de mi alcance.»

En I Am Not A Serial Killer nos encontramos con una historia realmente perturbadora y extraña en la que tenemos como protagonista a John Wayne Cleaver,un chico de 15 años que a pesar de que aparenta ser normal está en constante lucha con sí mismo para dejar de lado sus pensamientos más oscuros que lo definen como un probable asesino en serie. John es observador y cuando un asesino llega a su ciudad encuentra el momento oportuno para mostrar esos conocimientos que aprendió durante su vida sobre los asesinos en serie. Pero al seguir de cerca al asesino empieza a sentir que su propio instinto oscuro puede despertar totalmente,lo que lo aterra ya que no sabe si va a poder callar esos pensamientos. Cuando conoce la verdadera identidad del asesino no sabe qué hacer: si permitir que siga asesinando o permitir que su lado más oscuro escape de su interior y matar al asesino de una vez por todas.

Madre mía, la historia es muy buena. No he visto la serie "Dexter" y por esto mismo me resultó muy original (algunos dicen que se parece a esta serie, por eso lo aclaro).La historia te lleva a leer las páginas de manera sencilla,no me aburrió en ningún momento. Lo que sí, me llevé una gran sorpresa a cómo la historia cambia su curso con el hecho del "asesino en serie" pero Dan Wells lo manejó excelente y me dejó satisfecha con sus partes sobrenaturales. Realmente los detalles, las observaciones que hace John son aterradoras, más cuando tienen que ver con la violencia y la necesidad de "ver sangre".

«Lo maldije en aquel momento, no porque las lágrimas fueran falsas,sino porque eran reales. Lo maldije por mostrarme con todas sus lágrimas, sus sonrisas y sus emociones sinceras que el verdadero engendro era yo»

La historia está narrada en 1º persona y sí, nos damos cuenta que Walker es un niño realmente perturbado. A pesar de parecer un joven algo desquiciado yo creo que lo que él realmente necesita es ayuda. Es decir, el chico sabe que algo malo le está pasando y es por esto que pide ayuda pero es difícil encontrarla cuando la gente no te comprende. Y aunque tenga su lado perverso y realmente terrorífico también tiene su lado humano,en el que un adolescente lucha constantemente consigo mismo. Yo le tomé cariño y no sé porque, pero me encariñé con él. Realmente disfruté mucho conocer su punto de vista de las cosas y lo que me gustó aún más fueron los detalles que hace con respecto a las cosas que ve. Realmente es un chico muy observador y calculador.

I am not a serial killer es un libro dónde podés aburrirte al máximo o entregarte a la historia y pasar una lectura con pura tensión por el suspenso. Es una historia que disfruté y como me gusta este tipo de género es algo que me hizo querer leer más sobre este tipo, me gustó mucho mucho.Es una trilogía y no sé cómo va a continuar esta historia pero sé que John tiene el muro derribado lo que no va a detener que esos pensamientos oscuros se conviertan en acciones. Genial
Profile Image for Priscilla.
146 reviews9,723 followers
October 16, 2011
Very nice, Mr. Dan Wells. Very nice, indeed.

First Impressions:
1. Slow at first, but after 100 *BAM*! What I'd like to call a 'double tap twist'. Not one, but two twists in the span of 2 pages!
2. I really enjoyed the therapy sessions between John and Dr. Neblin.
3. The plot was a general 'good'. The twist made things more interesting.
4. Book focuses on character analysis of John's character. VERY interesting, reading from the mind of a sociopath. Sometimes though, he makes really stupid decisions. Very realistic character, 'normal' teenage boy with hobbies that would make others feel highly uncomfortable. You really wouldn't know John's a sociopath.
5. I learned a lot about serial killers.

Very good, and different read! I'm still pretty floored about the twist. Very unexpected. Video review up tomorrow...hopefully :)
Profile Image for Snotchocheez.
595 reviews322 followers
February 7, 2017
1.5 stars

Despite the obvious similarity to Jeff Lindsay's Dexter series and the overwhelming feeling of revulsion from a YA-ish novel wallowing in the realm of real-life serial killers, I still was somewhat intrigued by Dan Wells' I Am Not a Serial Killer and plowed through the the first 100 pages like a starving man breaking a fast with an Italian BMT from Subway...

...but then realized that the delicious sandwich I'd been nom-noming on was made of inedible food stuff. (Wax? Offal? Fecal matter?)

Wells front-loads his thriller with umpteen references to the most notorious serial killers in history (everyone from Jack the Ripper to Ted Bundy to Ed Gein to Dennis Rader to Jeffrey Dahmer...hell, even the protagonist, 15 year-old John Wayne Cleaver {named for the famed actor} thinks he was really named after John Wayne Gacy the killer clown, and his father being named Sam Cleaver makes him the Son Of Sam...get it?) Yeah, our protag, young Mr. Cleaver (a mortuary owner's son in the tiny town of Conway...somewhere in the Midwest US) is obsessed with serial killers. Indeed, he's been diagnosed with sociopathic tendencies and Antisocial Personality Disorder, and is terribly concerned that the "monster inside" is trying to make him a serial killer, too.

Then a real "serial killer" emerges, and begins terrorizing the residents of Conway, and the bodies start rolling into his mother's mortuary, and you just know Johnny's gonna lose his marbles over these gruesome murders and find the perpetrator, and

Everything from that point onward (roughly page 100 of 270) becomes laughable and utterly ridiculous. I should've known from the "Tor" imprint (of fame, the indie SF/fantasy publisher/website) that this was not going to be a conventional thriller, but the bait-and-switch (from straightforward serial killer story to a "supernatural thriller") was, for me, impossible to swallow.

(Evidently not for others, though: there's at least three more "John Wayne Cleaver" sequels out there, with even higher GR star ratings than this one. Rest assured, though: I won't be torturing myself with them).
Profile Image for Geles.
175 reviews29 followers
August 22, 2021
Primera novela de la saga protagonizada por John Cleaver.

Una novela más bien dirigida a un público juvenil y donde puedes encontrar una explicación completa sobre las técnicas de embalsamar.

Quizá si se hubiese ahorrado el tema sobrenatural me hubiese gustado más.

Para pasar el rato.
Profile Image for Howard.
1,182 reviews73 followers
May 7, 2023
2.5 Stars for I Am Not A Serial Killer (audiobook) by Dan Wells read by John Allen Nelson.

Maybe I should read read the preface for this one. I didn’t realize that this was sort of a horror story. I think I finally get what the author was trying to portray. A young man trying not to be a monster has to battle a real monster to save his town. But the real monsters is only a monster because of his love for a woman. I don’t know, the writing and narration just didn’t work for me.

Profile Image for Annalisa.
525 reviews1,349 followers
April 26, 2010
John Wayne Cleaver knows he's a sociopath. He loves fire; he's curious about the insides of animals (and the dead bodies that come to mortuary owned by his mother); and he was a bed wetter. Anyone fascinated by serial killers (like John, okay and me) knows those are the three characteristics attributed to serial killers. In fear of his own dark potential, he follows rules to keep up the appearance of a normal teenager and keep himself safely away from danger. Then a serial killer strikes his town. In order to find and destroy the monster, John must let down his wall of rules and let his own monster out.

Wells does such a good job putting you into John's head that you can root for him even while you're disturbed by him. He's a good kid, but I certainly wouldn't wish any girl to be his girlfriend or even his mom to be his mom. He made a fascinating protagonist as he struggled with his lack of empathy, how to read and connect with people, and where to find his moral ground. Wells asks the question of what makes a monster: the kid who restrains his dark tendencies, feeling nothing at the death he witnesses, or the one who kills out of need and cries for his victims.

The plot took a disappointing turn, bringing in story elements that were unnecessary for the metaphorical message of John's battle (the only reason I didn't give it five stars), but the story was still fascinating and intense. It starts with an embalming and ends with, well I wouldn't tell you that. But it's good. If you are at all fascinated by sociopaths, serial killers, morticians, unconventional protagonists, or a little gore in your thrillers, than you'll enjoy this book.
Profile Image for seak.
429 reviews473 followers
April 19, 2011
4.5 Stars

What a surprisingly good book. The pacing was great, the plotting tight, and John Wayne Cleaver is a great, if not utterly bizarre, kid with whom to enjoy the ride. Seriously, this was one of the weirdest books I've ever read, let alone enjoyed this much.

What are the three things 95% of serial killers have in common? Bed-wetting, pyromania, and animal cruelty...and John has all three.

The story is told in first person by John Wayne Cleaver, who recently entered high school...and also happens to be a sociopath. Not only is he obsessed with serial killers, but he has his own monsters to contend with. He also has no problem with dead bodies as his family owns a mortuary and they live just above it.

Suddenly, a string of murders begin showing up in the small community of Clayton County and as John explains it to his "friend" Max, it's like when you're favorite comic book author shows up in town, he's almost elated. And who better to stop a sociopath than another sociopath right?

I never thought I'd be laughing to myself this much over such a creepy subject, but I Am Not a Serial Killer is told with a proper blend of seriousness and plenty of jokes...about killing and whatnot. Creepy/funny = Freepy?

For example:

"People always think it's creepy to live over a mortuary, but it's really just like any other house. Sure, we have dead bodies in the basement, but we also have a chapel, so it balances out. Right?"

There are plenty of other one-liners and puns, I guess it's amazing what you'll laugh at. :)

I Am Not A Serial Killer is also amazingly well researched not only in terms of serial killer references, but also in terms of a very realistic look into the mind of a possible serial killer, who also happened to be extremely likable. But I guess that's how serial killers tend to be, they can be extremely likable people, think Ted Bundy I guess.

Even though my wife looked at me in a very strange way when she saw I was reading this, and your significant other probably will too, I Am Not A Serial Killer is HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.
Profile Image for Rachel Aranda.
881 reviews2,262 followers
January 10, 2018
How has it taken me so long to find and read this book!? It's absolutely fantastic and might be a new favorite book and series for me.

Lately I've read books that have been meh or okay. Think it might have been a mini reading slump as it was hard for me to have interest in reading. I'd grown a bit bored so I took a break when the holidays came. Decided to try this book as it was suggested by my fiance purely on the fact that he found the title amusing. Haha he was definitely right about the title. Still I wasn't expecting that this book would completely revive me and end my bordeom.

From the moment I started reading, this book had this kind of jolting impact on me. It felt like my eyes had been opened to this author and his interesting character. I haven't read writing this griping and easy to understand in a long time. Was happily surprised that this shortish book was so well thought-out. John Wayne Cleaver is one of the most fascinating characters I've stumbled upon in a long time! He isn't the typical good or bad boy I'm used to reading as he's somewhere trying to balance who he is. I like him even though I probably shouldn't.

Honestly I think everyone needs to give this book a try. It is that good! This is a must read series for me now! Definitely need to find the independently made movie so I can watch it as soon as possible.
36 reviews
February 23, 2010
I actively avoid horror in books, movies, or on television. Ironically, I had a hard time putting this book down, and finished it in what is (for me) record time (three days).

Wells creates a main character that is simultaneously disturbing, sympathetic and likable. What amazed me even more than that was Wells' ability to forge the character in such a plausible way that I ended up seeing things through the eyes of John Cleaver: sociopath.

I'll admit that there's some gore in the book, but I give credit to Wells for avoiding gore merely for shock value. Anything gory (and I didn't actually think it was egregious to begin with) is there to advance the story, and not in a contrived way, either.

The humor was sprinkled throughout the book, and served to keep it light, despite its inherently dark nature.

Tension was good, the plot twists were unexpected (especially when John figures out who the killer is), and the use of internal character conflict solid. Wells' book is supremely believable (even with some semi-fantasy elements), intelligent, and enjoyable.

My hearty congratulations to the author. I look forward to reading the rest of the trilogy. Tor made a wise decision to pick up John Cleaver's world.

Profile Image for Mary ♥.
442 reviews101 followers
September 12, 2018
4/5 stars

I simply felt alone, one leaf sitting miles away from a giant, communal pile.


I Am Not A Serial Killer was a book the existence of which I learned exactly this year. I found it, put it in my TBR, and that was it. Once I had it in my hands, I started reading and found myself absolutely absorbed by the story of a child obsessed with serial killers, who was ready to go to great lenghts to prevent himself from becoming one too. I read about mysterious murders that shook a small town to its core and awoke wicked instincts and forces. But most importantly, I read about the boundaries that we sometimes have to create, the internal fights all of us go through and the pure side in each one of us.

John Wayne Cleaver's character is one of the most unique, complex and layered ones I ever stumbled upon in a story. His narrating is truly wonderful, as we see his intense fight with his mental illness and his darker desires, but also his passions, the way he sees things, and his thoughts on so many subjects and matters. When I was reading, I kept thinking that he should take a break, because some of the things that happened to him were truly sad and traumatizing. This book has trigger warnings for explicit descriptions of gore, so if you guys feel uncomfortable with that, I'd suggest you pick something else.

There is a really big game changer in the book, which most people already know, but I won't mention in order to avoid the possibility of spoiling somebody. The thing is, the book kept hinting that this thing was about to happen long before it actually did, and this actually bugged me, because I would be far more surprised and excited about the turn the events took if I hadn't expected it.

One thing I always praise in stories is the effort some authors actually put into writing them. This was the case with IANASK too. There was SO much research in embalming, serial killers and criminal profiling that it absolutely blew my mind. It was pretty insightful, and I actually noted it down on this weird forensic facts journal entry I keep. I was really glad for all the devotion the author seemed to have put into shaping this story, and it totally made me even more excited to read the rest of the books.

Another thing I have to talk about is the writing. I kept imagining everything that was happening so vividly like it was happening in front of me. Dan Wells' writing was lyrical and realistic at the same time, gripping and whimsical mixed in a wonderful product. It was unlike anything I had ever seen before and it stayed with me long after I finished the book.

The plot was quick, full of twists and turns, surprises and danger in every corner. It captivated me from beginning to end, and made me feel like I was running for my life. I loved the concept of what a monster actually is, and how sometimes when you look in the darkness, it stares back at you. It's a truly complicated matter, the origin and the manifestation of evil, and I believe that the author handled it in such a clever and stunning way, by creating the collision between a main character whose mind is riddled by dark thoughts and a villain who was though sympathizable and had a human side.

Last but not least, the concept of love, in all its forms and glory, and the way it affects and changes people was really important and was shown through so many things in this story. It is shown even more in the second book, the review of which I have not yet written, but it was shown in here too, in a powerful, refreshing and wonderful way. It showed how love can bring out someone's best self, and how it can truly affect a person in so many cases.

The only thing I didn't like about this book was the ending, as I felt there was no cliffhanger, and for some time had no motivation to read the rest. This means that it can probably be read as a standalone, although I would advice you read the whole series because it gets so, so much better.

If you didn't understand, this is my first autumn review, and autumn is Halloween month, so enjoy yourselves, be strong and unique, and never ever stop fighting ♥

I love you all ♥
Until the enxt review, keep reading :D

Profile Image for Laurie  (barksbooks).
1,726 reviews673 followers
July 9, 2018
This is a weird book but I think I liked it well enough. Let’s see if I can work out a rating by the time I stop writing out my feelings here.

“I think that fate wants me to become a serial killer.”

John Wayne Cleaver is a teen doing his best not to murder the cretins that surround him. I’m not joking about this either. He has serious serial killer in the making vibes. Even his therapist thinks so. His family runs a mortuary and he’s been exposed to death since he was a child but he’s the only one in his family who finds death fascinating. He’s written school essays on serial killers and is obsessed with learning everything about them. But unlike most killers (besides Dexter), he knows murder is wrong and he creates rules for himself that will prevent him from acting out on his urges to slice people up like stir-fry. But people do not make it easy for him. As you all probably know, most people are jerks. Especially when they’re still in high school. John has one friend and that friend was so annoying I might’ve wanted to slice him up a time or two myself.

This kid is detached, he knows it, you know it and it’s hard to feel for him since he doesn’t feel normal emotions. He mimics others in order to be a decent citizen and get by in society. You think you see where this all heading with comments like these, don’t you?

“If you met me on the street you’d never know how much I wanted to kill you.”

But you would be wrong. The book takes a weird and unexpected turn somewhere midway in and it really threw me off. I thought I was reading one thing and then it turned into another thing and I wasn’t sure I liked where it was heading but in the end I guess it worked out because I didn’t quit it. Just go in expecting the unexpected and you might be ok.

With that said, I must steer you away from the audiobook read by John Allen Nelson. Sadly this narrator was not a good fit for my ears. He has a news anchor voice and he’s not afraid to use it and it continually threw me out of the story. He would be much better suited to a true crime or a nonfiction book. He doesn’t do well with a teen’s voice and this book is told by a teen. He also has the funniest, most cartoony old person voice I think I have ever heard outside of the shows my kids used to watch on Nickelodeon. I laughed when I should’ve been a wee bit sad or terrified.

In the end, I guess I’m giving this production and story a three. I wasn’t happy with the way everything was wrapped up so tidily in the end. It seemed too easy and too unbelievable and it infuriated me a little. Many people say this story gets better as the series moves along. I may try another if I stumble on a free copy but I won’t actively seek them out.
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