I Am Not a Serial Killer
A friend recommended that I read I Am Not a Serial Killer, by Dan Wells, because in it, necromancy doesn’t pay. It also has a very interesting teen protagonist and a plot that makes it a real page-turner.
The protagonist, whose name is John Wayne Cleaver, narrates this novel. He thinks he might be named after John Wayne Gacy, “who killed thirty-three people in Chicago,” and since his father’s name is Sam he also sees himself as the Son of Sam, “a serial killer in New York.” He believes that he is “named after two serial killers and a murder weapon.”
John continually struggles to be a good person, although he admits “I’d been fascinated—I tried not to use the word ‘obsessed’—with serial killers for a long time, but it wasn’t until my Jeffrey Dahmer report in the last week of middle school that Mom and my teachers got worried enough to put me into therapy.”
John’s mother and aunt work as morticians, and they allow him to hang out with them and sometimes help with autopsies, which is how a mystery is revealed to him. As bodies begin to come in with parts missing, John assumes there’s a serial killer in town. When he finds out what it actually is—a demon keeping himself alive with body parts he takes from his victims—John resolves to bring him to justice.
Being “good,” however, poses problems for John. When he calls the police, the demon kills them (and takes a spare body part). So it’s up to John to kill the “monster,” except, as he thinks:
“That was what I was afraid of, right? That I’d kill somebody? Well, what if the somebody I killed was a demon? Wouldn’t that be okay?
No, it wouldn’t. I controlled myself for a reason—the things I used to think about, the things I built that wall to prevent, were wrong. Killing was wrong. I wouldn’t do it.
But if I didn’t do it, Mr. Crowley would, again and again.”
John is afraid that killing the monster will turn him into a monster, but he decides that what he will have to do is “let the monster out” from inside of himself.
The result is that John begins to lose control. At one point he calls a person “it,” which alarms him because “calling human beings ‘it’ was a common trait of serial killers—they didn’t think of other people as human, only as objects, because that made them easier to torture and kill. It was hard to hurt ‘him’ or ‘her,’ but ‘it’ was easy. ‘It’ didn’t have any feelings. ‘It didn’t have any rights. ‘It’ was just a thing, and you could do whatever you wanted with ‘it.’”
At the end of the story, however, John saves himself, his mother, and his entire town. The way he does it and why is what makes this book a page-turner, so I’m not going to reveal it here because this is a good book, and you should read it–you’ll be glad you did, as glad as I am that my friend recommended it.