You can scare the crap out of me (Aracnaphobia), and I will love you forever. You can make me bite my nails in terrible suspense (Wait Until Dark, The Village) or throw supernatural at me (Poltergeist) and I will sing with praise. But the moment you do gruesome, the moment you start showing me entrails and organs, my discomfort level shoots through the roof.
And this is why I would not have finished I Am Not A Serial Killer by Dan Well’s if I had just picked it up off a shelf–because the main character is the son of a woman who owns a mortuary. We get to see him help process a mutilated body very early in the book, pumping fluids in etc., and Wells knows his craft so I was THERE. I’m sure it’s not too gruesome for some, but I just have issues with organs. I don’t know why. I also have an issue with clowns.
Clowns are, by far, the scariest things around. And this is not because I read the book IT by Stephen King as a wee lad because I didn’t. It’s because they’re painted vessels of evil. End of story. They’re perfect examples of the freakazoids that lurk in the uncanny valley.
Anyway, I’d heard Wells read a portion of this book that had all of us in the room crying because we were laughing so hard. So I read on, telling myself I had to at least get to that part. And I am so very happy I did.
I Am Not A Serial Killer is young adult story about a good-hearted teen named John Cleaver who is a sociopath with all the traits shared by serial killers. John’s in counseling, but more importantly, he is convinced he can prevent himself from becoming a serial killer by keeping rules he’s made for himself like not watching people for too long and complimenting someone when they make him angry. Such rules, he hopes, will keep him from feeding compulsions he won’t be able to resist. The problem is a real serial killer has come to town (but unlike any you’ve seen before). And John may be the only one who can stop him. Will he let go of his rules to save the town? Or will he keep his monster asleep while others die around him?
It’s a fascinating situation (without a clown in sight, may the writing gods be praised). And Wells takes the reader on a journey through it that includes mystery, dread, and humor. In the hands of some other author, that would be enough. But Wells does more than entertain us. He gives us things to think about. He gives us great characters to boot–come on, when was the last time you read a book where the hero was a likeable sociopath? And most of the gruesome is up front anyway.
Read this book. Skim the body processing if you must. But you simply don’t want to miss the rest. It was a fabulous read and I recommend it highly.
The US version comes out in March of 2010. But you can get the UK version now on Amazon UK, Borders UK, etc. The links are all here on Well’s site.