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I Don't Want to Kill You (John Cleaver) Hardcover – March 29, 2011
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“Fans of Jeff Lindsay's Dexter series will welcome Wells's gripping debut.” ―Publishers Weekly on I Am Not a Serial Killer
“Wells's debut is an unabashedly gory gem. This deft mix of several genres features a completely believable teenage sociopath (with a heart of gold), dark humor, a riveting mystery, and enough description of embalming to make any teen squeamish, even if they won't admit it. Buy multiples where it won't be banned.” ―Kirkus Reviews (starred review) on I Am Not a Serial Killer
About the Author
Dan Wells is the author of I Am Not a Serial Killer and Mr. Monster. He lives in Orem, Utah, with his wife, Dawn, and four young children.
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John Wayne Cleaver is sixteen years old, lives in Clayton, North Dakota, works with his mom and aunt in the family-owned mortuary business and is a sociopath. He also hunts demons (I am assuming you've read the other books in the trilogy so I'm not considering this to be a spoiler).
John's character was fleshed out in this offering, giving us readers an in-depth look at more of the whys of his actions. There's some romance, some more serial killing, more blood and guts, and a great ending to this very unusual trilogy.
And that’s why I Don’t Want to Kill You was so amazing. I’ll admit, the beginning of the novel wasn’t as good as I had been hoping it would be, for a few reasons. First off, it started in a similar way to the two previous novels—I was fine when Dan did this for two books in a row, and continuing to do what works for you is fine, but it definitely did start to take on at least a little of a “monster of the week” feel. Or demon of the week, I guess. I wanted something more, and it took a while to get it. There were several of the “What did he do that he didn’t have to do” moments that I had come to expect, for example…
The other thing that really threw me off was the romance, but that one, I know, is just a personal pet peeve. I used to go around, listing the amazing things that people did before getting girlfriends, to make myself feel better. “Just defeat the most powerful dark wizard ever, save the world, and fulfill the prophecy, and you’ll get the beautiful red-head of your choice.” “Just get chosen to fight in an arena to the death with your one true love, declare said love on national television, and devote your entire being to keeping her alive, even at the cost of your own life, and you’ll get a kiss.” “Just be a sociopathic killer who dreams about torturing, murdering, and embalming his girlfriends, and you’ll get asked out a lot.”
Yeah… I got a little depressed by the fact that John Cleaver gets more dates than I do.
The same building tension, the mystery of the demons and who is killing people in Clayton County (Seriously, how many books before the whole place is depopulated?), all of that, is here again. If you enjoyed the first two books, and you don’t mind a little romance—even if it is weird romance through the eyes of a sociopath—then you’ll enjoy the first half of the book. Perhaps the first 2/3, or even 3/4.
Regardless, the ending will blow you away. The stakes are so much higher than they have been before, the situation seems more impossible… And the way the climax and aftermath is handled is just masterful. I can’t say too much more about the ending, because that would totally be giving away spoilers, but I will say that it is totally worth it, and I am glad I read this book. And that I have the next one on hand, right now.
In summary, I Don’t Want to Kill You got off on the wrong foot with me, but by the ending I liked it more than any of the other books in the trilogy. A good ending will forgive pretty much anything else, and this one more than delivers on its promise. I give it a high four out of five stars (4.5 if I did half stars), and a high recommendation. Now off to start the 4th one.
Review originally from my blog, Mental Megalodon
Part of what made the first two books so creepy was the fact that John Cleaver truly struggled to keep his own inner demons at bay. Watching him struggle through his personal rules, watching him stalk friends, watching him use arson as his outlet: all these things made for a narrator that was unstable and unnerving. In this book, however, John is much more in control of himself and so I never felt uneasy about him. His inner struggles take a back seat and only rarely come out. Instead, the book focuses on the killings and the killer, and John becomes sleuth-youth extraordinaire, putting all his serial killer and criminal profiling skills to use in an attempt to stop the next inevitable murder that plagues poor Clayton County.
In I Don’t Want to Kill You John’s social life also starts to develop, moving outside of his immediate family members. In the first book he had practically no friends, in the second, he goes on a few dates, but in number three he’s practically beating the girls off with a stick (hey, at least it’s not a knife). If there’s one piece of the book that doesn’t work as well, it’s the dialogue of the high school students. It’s not bad, by any means (if you want bad dialogue, read Odd Thomas), it’s just not up to Dan Wells’ usually high standard. At times, the last book drifts a bit toward The CW, but the feeling is fleeting and never gets in the way of enjoying the book.
This was an excellent book, that, while technically the end of the trilogy, certainly keeps the door open should Wells ever wish to return to the wonderful murdery world of John Wayne Cleaver. I hope he does.