Star Rating: 1 out of 5 Stars ☆
Synopsis: John Wayne Cleaver is a 14 year old boy who lives with his mother and aunt. He is obsessed with serial killers and spends a lot of time thinking about and studying them. This leads to those around him telling him (and the book reiterating this on a constant basis) that his obsession is not “normal”, creepy, and even downright disturbing (Guess all of us who watch Investigation Discovery, or are detectives, or are FBI profilers are all just as “disturbed”).
He is told by practically everyone in his life that he is abnormal and his interests are unsettling, at best. He eventually sees a therapist, who diagnoses him (rather quickly and without much time spent with the boy) with Antisocial Personality Disorder, or Sociopathy, and tells the boy he is a sociopath who is likely to become a killer in the future (real professional we have here).
Now John is convinced he is a serial killer-in-wait and it’s just a matter of time – so he’s going to now spend all of his time thinking about killers and how he’s going to become one. Eventually, his thoughts twist to thinking about what it will be like to kill others… it’s a downward spiral.
Soon, a real serial killer has taken up residence in John’s small county. John takes it upon himself, as a self-proclaimed not-quite-a-serial-killer-yet, to solve the murders.
Opinion: The synopsis of this review should give you a basic idea of how I feel about this book without even coming down to the second part – I’m frustrated, annoyed, and just downright angry.
Let me explain my position a bit better – before I get into this further. I’m going to start by sharing a bit of personal information about myself – I am the mother of a 14 year old autistic son. The main symptoms of autism that my son suffers from include, but are not limited to: difficulty feeling and/or expressing emotions, understanding why others feel the emotions they do – and recognizing any emotion from another person, being detached or without typical human “bonding”, and obsessions with certain topics. These are ALL symptoms of autism.
Where does Autism and Sociopathy differ, then? Well, in the capacity for empathy. While autistic people feel empathy, they may not be able to express it well. Sometimes they feel only a little empathy when they should feel a great amount (what is “normal”).. but a sociopath feels absolutely NO sympathy or empathy for anyone.. EVER.
The author spends the entire novel shoving the idea that this kid is a serial killer in training without a shred of empathy down the readers’ throat, but also the character of John himself. Hell, the kid even has been gifted with a serial killer name!
Everyone in the book continuously tells John he’s a sociopath, that he’s not normal, that he’s creepy, crazy, disturbed.. you name it, they call him it. This includes his mother, friends, and professionals.
The idea of this kid being a “monster” is drilled into the reader almost like the author is just begging you to accept it. I’ve never felt so bombarded with a recurring idea in a novel before. It’s downright sleazy salesmanship.
The problem is… while the book tries to hammer into your head (and poor John’s) that John is a sociopathic monster… John is actually doing things that are empathetic. He worries about his neighbor, his failing health, and his marriage. But most of all… MOST of all… he becomes overwhelmingly frightened when a person who is related to a friend is put into a dangerous situation. He worries about the consequences of the dangerous circumstances for his friend. That – THAT – is empathy.
This poor kid is being told by everyone that he’s a disturbed, feeling-less, soon to be serial killer. No wonder he acts the way he does! No wonder he believes the things he believes! The characters have done this TO him. THAT is the disturbing part. And I loathe this author for subjecting and contaminating not only this character – but his entire audience with this complete and utter CRAP!
Goodreads Link: “I Am Not A Serial Killer” by Dan Wells
Amazon.com Link: “I Am Not A Serial Killer” by Dan Wells