What you get when you cross Goosebumps with Dexter? You get Dan Well’s I’m Not a Serial Killer.
You may have heard of this book, a movie was made back in 2016, staring Christopher Lloyd. It was an independent film and currently watchable on Youtube for 2.99 if you want to give it a go. I haven’t seen it yet and probably won’t, because of this book.
For better or worse, here we go…
A young man is haunted and tormented by his thoughts of being a serial killer, his parents are split up, his sister is living her life, he is a pariah, he has one friend, he is obsessed with serial killers and he is friends with a kindly old couple. Everything is mostly normal in John Wayne Cleaver’s world, minus the fact that a serial killer is on the loose!
The characters are a lot shallower than an actual psychopath, let me just say that.
John Cleaver, because I refuse to say his full banal name, is the most developed character of them all, but still a shallow puddle of a character. I could identify with some of his personality, because I enjoyed horror growing up, I wrote horror growing up and also read a lot about serial killers myself. I also was a fan of Marilyn Manson, among other out there musicians, I loved the Undertaker as a wrestler, I had toy caskets and I absolutely loved villains like Freddy Kruger, Michael Myers, Jason Vorhees, Darth Vader, The Emperor, Lex Luthor and also Hannibal Lector, the reason I got into psychology to begin with, as some of my personal favorites. My parents never ran a funeral home, though. Yes, the idea does tend to occur to you, with all the love for the macabre that one isn’t quite right in the head and you might be very strange human indeed. I mean, who watches the opening scene to Children of The Corn and wants to see more? I did, but that’s beside the point. Regardless, John Cleaver is more than normal, he just obsesses over small things like being a killer because he is an INFJ or possibly an autistic, not because he is a killer, because a serial killer wouldn’t care if he or she was one. You could argue he is an unreliable narrator, I mean, it is 2017 America within the book and the damn town has payphones. Regardless, if he is supposed to be interesting, he could struggle a bit more with right and wrong and the plight of possibility, this doesn’t even scratch the surface. I know because I’ve created stories like this, which has infinity more depth than Dan Wells has created.
The Mom is the second best developed character who apparently is an empath, albeit, expressed piss poorly. She cares about her kids but cannot understand the weirdness with John. She causes a lot of fights and we get to understand some of the rest from John’s exposition. How much of that is trustful when he is running around saying he is a serial killer, is beyond me, though.
That is pretty much it for developed characters. Other barley worthwhile to note characters are the aunt, sister, his friend who uses 90’s slang in 2017, his love interest, The obvious Serial Killer, who is obvious and his elderly neighbors. Oh yeah, and his shitty psychologist that diagnosis John wrong and doesn’t seem like a real psychologist.
Barebones, wonky and uneven throughout the whole book. Most the book is built developing his character and not well, over building suspense Dan really shows a talent for not knowing what he is doing here. He describes no one. I first thought, maybe that is showing he is devoid of a personal bent, but nope, he can describe hair and clothes piss poorly and doesn’t care to develop other characters through showing. Clearly Dan isn’t a people person and that is fine, but could you at least be inductive enough to realize that and make up for it? I used to write a similar style, but mine was because I knew that the audience, was most likely going to come up with their own version anyways, so let them. I do my best not to do that now a days and I think Dan should learn to as well, since we don’t need group of people, looking like they walked out of Pink Floyd’s The Wall.
Never mind the fact it has awkward segways, no tension until the end, right up to a piss poor “climax”
There isn’t any in this book outside of what it is like to live with autism, since John, regardless of his semi typical nature, seems to have a lot of the hallmarks of an autistic.
This book seems like it was written in the 1990’s and was shelved or shopped around until it was published in 2010, when Dan finally found a blind editor, or was able to bypass one, and push this book through. The fact is, it is highly dated and this book doesn’t work in a post columbine world. This kid could and would have been red flagged anytime pass 1999. Just look at what happened to Parkland, a weird kid shot up his school, but he was red flagged innumerable times, the FBI was just too inept to take the kids threat seriously, yet Dan’s character just waltzes around, sending up “signals”, whilst everyone around acts as if their fucks have taken the day off. Factor in the aspect of it being derivative of other, better, more successful works and it makes this book seem even weaker in comparison.
Still, the best thing I could say about this is that it reminded me of all those, in some cases bad, young adult books I used to read back in the day, like Goosebumps or Fear Street and for that, I will give it an extra star, but the rest of it isn’t worth the time and effort.
If you want a nostalgia pop, this is right for you, no matter how badly. If you want a good book, skip this!
2 ½ out of 5 stars