Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “I Am Not A Serial Killer (John Cleaver, #1)” as Want to Read:
I Am Not A Serial Killer (John Cleaver, #1)
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

I Am Not A Serial Killer (John Cleaver #1)

3.77  ·  Rating Details  ·  17,565 Ratings  ·  2,620 Reviews
John Wayne Cleaver is dangerous, and he knows it.

He's spent his life doing his best not to live up to his potential.

He's obsessed with serial killers, but really doesn't want to become one. So for his own sake, and the safety of those around him, he lives by rigid rules he's written for himself, practicing normal life as if it were a private religion that could save him fr
Trade Paperback, 271 pages
Published March 30th 2010 by Tor Books (first published 2009)
More Details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about I Am Not A Serial Killer, please sign up.

Popular Answered Questions

Dorie I thought it was real too. (Was there more than one?)
Actually, it didn't even occur to me that it might have been the character's psychosis. But if…more
I thought it was real too. (Was there more than one?)
Actually, it didn't even occur to me that it might have been the character's psychosis. But if that were the case I think the author would have put more doubt in the reader's mind. I think it would have been more of a storyline than a given.(less)
The Silence of the Lambs by Thomas HarrisDarkly Dreaming Dexter by Jeff LindsayRed Dragon by Thomas HarrisAmerican Psycho by Bret Easton EllisThe Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson
I Like Serial Killers
16th out of 684 books — 1,117 voters
I Am Not A Serial Killer by Dan WellsI Don't Want to Kill You by Dan WellsMisery by Stephen KingI Hunt Killers by Barry LygaMr. Monster by Dan Wells
Best Books About Psychopaths
1st out of 76 books — 130 voters

More lists with this book...

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  Rating Details
My reaction when a third of the way through the book “IT” happened was something like…

For those of you that have read the book, you know EXACTLY what I am talking about. For everyone else, let me explain as best I can without any spoilers.

Our story begins in a small town with a wonderful introduction to John Wayne Cleaver. John is 15 years old boy who is obsessed with serial killers. This obsession is the result of he himself having many of the traits and characteristics of a serial killer and
Dan Wells
Dec 30, 2008 Dan Wells rated it it was amazing  ·  (Review from the author)  ·  review of another edition
Quite possibly the best book ever written.
Jan 16, 2011 Flannery rated it it was ok
Recommended to Flannery by: Linda
John Wayne Cleaver lives in a mortuary. But before you go thinking this is all fun and games like My Girl (well, at least before Thomas J and the bees), you should know that John Wayne is a killer. Well, at least he thinks he is. As a teenager, his internal monster makes life considerably harder, especially because John feels no connection to his peers and little to no emotion. I Am Not A Serial Killer follows John as he deals with having a serial killer in his town--Will being so close to an ac ...more
Apr 21, 2011 Kemper rated it liked it
Ever since Hannibal Lector flirted with Clarice Starling by telling her about his favorite recipes, it seems like every other thriller features some kind of deranged but brilliant serial killer. It’s gotten beyond boring, but occasionally some writer will manage to come up with a fresh perspective on the genre. Jeff Lindsay’s Dexter series put a unique twist on the notion of the serial killer. (Or at least he did until he wrote the utterly crappy Dexter in the Dark.) Now Dan Wells is taking a ne ...more
Nov 26, 2011 Stacy rated it did not like it
Recommends it for: `
I wanted to read this book because of my fascination with serial killers and the intriguing slant in the main character's relationship with himself.
While reading, I was put off by Wells' writing style. It came off as juvenile in that he writes as though he doesn't trust his readers to figure out fairly obvious things for themselves. He posts many unnecessary/rhetorical questions that the reader is (hopefully, or rather should be) already wondering about on her own. It's muddled in redundancy.
Apr 27, 2016 Vilda rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: YA horror/thriller readers who likes paranormal twists!
Rating: 3,5 stars

"In other words, I was really good at pretending to be normal. If you met me on the street, you'd never guess how much I wanted to kill you."

Writing a review for this one is kinda hard! Lets just say that I Am Not A Serial Killer was definitely a very different read, but real good. Not quite mind-blowing, but good and one never losing my interest.

It was so interesting to be in John's head! He might not be a serial killer, but he thinks he'll become one if he doesn't stick to
Chelsea ❤Peril Please❤ (of BADGER and Snake)

You are evil, said myself. You are Mr. Monster. You are nothing. You are me.

Well well well...what an odd slice of fun this was. Simplistic and understated, this book really doesn't try to be anything other than what it says it is, making for not only a fun, easy read, but a very touching one, as well. It's not easy to read about a diagnosed sociopath...well, at least not for the average person. For me? It felt more authentic and real. I became entwined and engrossed with this character in the
Jason (RawBlurb)
Jan 05, 2015 Jason (RawBlurb) rated it really liked it
I think my wife is a serial killer waiting to be unleashed on the world.

I had not heard of this novel but ran across a Powell’s Books author reading late last month by Dan Wells. I read a summary of his recent book and then scheduled appropriately to go and listen to him. Jenn went with me and whispered creepy serial killer/mass murderer stats in my ear.. it was disturbing how much she knew.. When Dan asked people to name 5 killers in order to win a t-shirt, she stayed quiet and named 14 under h
Oct 15, 2011 Priscilla rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Very nice, Mr. Dan Wells. Very nice, indeed.

First Impressions:
1. Slow at first, but after 100 *BAM*! What I'd like to call a 'double tap twist'. Not one, but two twists in the span of 2 pages!
2. I really enjoyed the therapy sessions between John and Dr. Neblin.
3. The plot was a general 'good'. The twist made things more interesting.
4. Book focuses on character analysis of John's character. VERY interesting, reading from the mind of a sociopath. Sometimes though, he makes really stupid decisions.
Mar 21, 2014 Cynn rated it it was amazing

«La noción de que yo fuera un sociópata no era nueva para mí; sabía desde hacía mucho tiempo que no conectaba con los otros. No les entendía y ellos tampoco me comprendían a mí, y fuera cual fuese el lenguaje emocional que utilizara, aprenderlo parecía estar fuera de mi alcance.»

En I Am Not A Serial Killer nos encontramos con una historia realmente perturbadora y extraña en la que tenemos como protagonista a John Wayne Cleaver,un chico de 15 años que a pesar de que aparenta ser normal está en
Apr 25, 2010 Annalisa rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: dark psychology and crime thrillers without the grit
Recommended to Annalisa by: Cami
John Wayne Cleaver knows he's a sociopath. He loves fire; he's curious about the insides of animals (and the dead bodies that come to mortuary owned by his mother); and he was a bed wetter. Anyone fascinated by serial killers (like John, okay and me) knows those are the three characteristics attributed to serial killers. In fear of his own dark potential, he follows rules to keep up the appearance of a normal teenager and keep himself safely away from danger. Then a serial killer strikes his tow ...more
Apr 19, 2011 seak rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2011
4.5 Stars

What a surprisingly good book. The pacing was great, the plotting tight, and John Wayne Cleaver is a great, if not utterly bizarre, kid with whom to enjoy the ride. Seriously, this was one of the weirdest books I've ever read, let alone enjoyed this much.

What are the three things 95% of serial killers have in common? Bed-wetting, pyromania, and animal cruelty...and John has all three.

The story is told in first person by John Wayne Cleaver, who recently entered high school...and also h
Feb 23, 2010 Stan rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I actively avoid horror in books, movies, or on television. Ironically, I had a hard time putting this book down, and finished it in what is (for me) record time (three days).

Wells creates a main character that is simultaneously disturbing, sympathetic and likable. What amazed me even more than that was Wells' ability to forge the character in such a plausible way that I ended up seeing things through the eyes of John Cleaver: sociopath.

I'll admit that there's some gore in the book, but I give c
Jubilation Lee
Friends, there’re a lot of really intense feeling that gets bandied about on Goodreads.

And events over the past six months or so have made me intensely aware of how even random people’s opinions—even, dare I say it, my opinion—may unintentionally destroy an author’s ability to function.

I am sure that Dan Wells is not this type of author, which is why I am confident that it will not break his heart when I say that I found his book—his BOOK, not him as a PERSON, and I APPLAUD this first novel att
Jun 14, 2010 Jess rated it really liked it
Shelves: i-own
Truthfully, I'm not sure what to rate this! John Cleaver (the MC) is so fascinating, but he's not always likable. But he's not supposed to be. And the writing is so good that I'm not sure what to rate it: a 3, 4, or a 5.(3 because I usually like my characters more likable, 4 for plot, and tension, 5 because the writing is amazing.)
I'm not really sure who I'd recommend this to. It's dark and disturbing, but the most disturbing thing is just how much I enjoyed it.
Don't get me wrong, I like John
Jan 08, 2011 Jessica rated it really liked it
Shelves: youngadult, fantasy
Apparently, it really is "always the quiet ones." I've known Dan Wells for a couple of years. He's nice, unassuming, Battlestar Galactica fan, so not unlike most of the people I know, really. But it turns out that Dan has intimate knowledge of embalming techniques and is a walking serial killer encyclopedia. Not to mention he possesses a talent for writing scenes which will make you regret eating lunch. Ever again. (I will also never be able to eat liver or anything that looks like liver ever ag ...more
Jul 21, 2011 Lou rated it liked it
Shelves: july-read, audio-book
John cleave has all the makings of a killer that 'McDonald triad' theory cruelty to animals, pyromania and bed wetting and his name to boot has strains of killing in it as he is son of Sam, Sam Cleaver and cleaver as in a weapon of choice to murder. I learned a bit about embalming, sociopaths, serial killers and formaldehyde in this story. He was dissecting animals by the age of 8 and increasing in behavioral problems and had to regularly visit a psychologist. With all this happening to a now 15 ...more
Jamie L
Apr 06, 2010 Jamie L rated it did not like it
This book was ridiculous for too many reasons to count.
Biggest complaint: felt like it was written by three different people and NOT in a collaborative sense. More of a I-don't-feel-like-writing-anymore-so-I-handed-it-off-to-my-friend sort of way. IDK, maybe the author has MPD or something.
Next: I HATE it when a teenager is the narrator/1st person in the book but the language is that of a 35 yr old English PhD. I have another book in this list with the same issue and I didn't like that book eith
Literary Ames {Against GR Censorship}
As a cross between TV shows Six Feet Under and Dexter for a YA audience (hmm, really?) this was a fascinating and insightful look into the sociopathic mind of a fifteen-year old boy as he attempts to take down a demon serial killer that goes on a rampage in his small town. Strong stomachs are required for this gruesome psychological thriller with undertones of black humour. Or a sick bag.

First off, I must say, sociopathy is becoming popular, is it not?

I referenced Six Feet Under for the fami
Feb 25, 2016 Anyelis rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Este libro ha sido otra de las mejores sorpresas que he leído este año. Con un ambiente, personajes muy bien pensados y una historia entretenida que no podrás parar de leer. Si debo admitir que hubieron algunas cosas que no me creo del todo, y algunas otra que predeci fácilmente pero ya les hablaré más a detalle en mi reseña.
Dec 30, 2015 Laura rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Honestamente, me pareció malisimo. Muy obvio, básico, lleno de cliches y súper repetitivo con algunas cosas que quedan muy claras de entrada y que no son necesarias machacar en nuestras cabezas una y otra vez. Un fiasco total
Mike (the Paladin)
Okay...I've said this about other books but boy is it true here....this is one weird book.

I picked this up because of the title...I mean I liked the Keller books (by Lawrence Block) but always felt a little creeped out by identification with a hit man...the "boy" here sounded like another "challenge" to my thought processes.

He was.

I must admit that if push comes to shove I really didn't like anyone in this book too much. We only really have a couple of in depth characters John Wayne Cleaver be
Tann Medi
Feb 06, 2016 Tann Medi rated it it was amazing
4.5 Me engancho desde sus primeras páginas nunca había leído desde la perspectiva de un personaje tan perturbador con deseos constantes de asesinar.
Además de que me lleve una grata sorpresa al ver que tenía cierto contenido sobrenatural :0
Muy pronto les traeré la reseña.
John Wiltshire
Aug 26, 2015 John Wiltshire rated it did not like it
Shelves: given-up-on
I got to..."You're bike is..." and decided this wasn't for me. If that's the standard of the editing...
Nah, to be totally honest, I gave up when the main character, who is trying to persuade us he's a cool kind of guy, admitted to frequent acts of animal torture...
He'd be dead in my world.
Aaron Vincent
Aug 28, 2011 Aaron Vincent rated it really liked it
Originally posted here

It’s not unusual to encounter a book claiming that its main character is not an ordinary boy. There are those born with the ability to master magic, or sired by a powerfuly deity inheriting his/her extraordinary powers, or someone who has the ability to wield a legendary sword. John Wayne Cleaver is not an ordinary boy but he is not the type expected to save the world. In fact, he may be the one to endanger it.

John Wayne Cleaver is a clinically diagnosed sociopath and he ha
Alex Ristea
Sep 18, 2013 Alex Ristea rated it really liked it
What's not to love about a YA novel starring a sociopathic main character?

I haven't read much fiction about serial killers, but I think Dan Wells should be lauded for his handling of this troubled child. The 1st person really got us into John Cleaver's head, and allowed us a peek into his fantastic narrative voice.

I also loved the dark turns the story took every now and then. (view spoiler)
Carolyn (Book Chick City)
I Am Not A Serial Killer gives a fascinating glimpse into the psyche of a fifteen year old boy on the verge of possibly becoming a serial killer. It delves into the human side of what it's like to have dark, murderous thoughts and how to keep them in check.

I was surprised at how much I liked the main protagonist, John Cleaver. Wells has created a character that I sympathise with rather than fear and I'm certainly intrigued to find out what kind of person he grows up to be. John is completely awa
[Name Redacted]
Jul 02, 2015 [Name Redacted] rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: horror, psychology
Wow. I

A visceral, powerful debut novel which moves along at an impressive clip. I finished it in less than 24 hours...but wow.

I do not know why the publisher made the decision to present this as a YA novel because it was obviously not intended as such (EDIT: and Wells has said so on the "Writing Excuses" podcast he shares with Brandon Sanderson, Mary Robinette Kowal and Howard Tayler). The attention to detail is remarkable and a bit overwhelming at points -- the opening scene in whic
Apr 14, 2010 Ray rated it it was ok
Watch out for spoilers below:

Wow. I really did not dig this book which apparently puts me in somewhat of a minority among GoodReads readers.

It started relatively strong: The idea that someone could recognize them self as a sociopath hooked me. The usual depiction of sociopaths is that they are brilliant but so egocentric that they can't understand their dysfunction.

However, even though we learn in the first few chapters that our narrator thinks he is a sociopath, the next logical question is n
Aug 04, 2015 Matthew rated it liked it
I ripped through this in a couple of sittings.. solid.. entertaining.. but nothing that blew my mind. I did like seeing inside the mind of a serial killer, but I found myself wanting more elaboration and story building in stages building up to the ending.

3.5 out of 5 stars.
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 99 100 next »
topics  posts  views  last activity   
What did you think? 2 11 Sep 25, 2015 02:26PM  
YA Spanish Reads: I am not a serial killer (Marzo) 16 155 Mar 26, 2014 07:19AM  
The Ultimate ABC ...: I Am Not A Serial Killer by Dan Wells 1 19 Mar 14, 2012 05:14AM  
  • Pressure
  • Letters in the Attic
  • Blackburn
  • Game (Jasper Dent, #2)
  • Tales of Terror from the Tunnel's Mouth (Tales of Terror, #3)
  • Meat
  • Kiss Me Twice
  • Slice of Cherry
  • Ripped Apart
  • Alcatraz Versus the Shattered Lens (Alcatraz, #4)
  • Children of Paranoia (Children of Paranoia, #1)
  • The Best of Joe R. Lansdale
  • The Resurrectionist
  • The Pilo Family Circus
  • House of Fallen Trees
  • Morning Is Dead
  • Mr. Shivers
  • The Mailman
Dan Wells is a thriller and science fiction writer. Born in Utah, he spent his early years reading and writing. He is he author of the Partials series (Partials, Isolation, Fragments, and Ruins), the John Cleaver series (I Am Not a Serial Killer, Mr. Monster, and I Don't Want To Kill You), and a few others (The Hollow City, A Night of Blacker Darkness, etc). He was a Campbell nomine for best new w ...more
More about Dan Wells...

Other Books in the Series

John Cleaver (6 books)
  • Mr. Monster (John Cleaver, #2)
  • I Don't Want to Kill You (John Cleaver, #3)
  • The Devil's Only Friend (John Cleaver, #4)
  • Over Your Dead Body (John Cleaver, #5)
  • Untitled (John Cleaver, #6)

Share This Book

“I've been clinically diagnosed with sociopathy,' I said. 'Do you know what that means?'
'It means you're a freak,' he said.
'It means that you're about as important to me as a carboard box,' I said. 'You're just a thing - a piece of garbage that no one's thrown away yet. Is that what you want me to say?'
'Shut up,' said Rob. He was still acting tough, but I could see his bluster was starting to fail. He didn't know what to say.
'The thing about boxes,' I said, 'is that you can open them up. Even though they're completely boring on the outside, there might be something interesting inside. So while you're saying all of these stupid, boring things I'm imagining what it would be like to cut you open and see what you've got in there.”
“In my biology class, we'd talked about the definition of life: to be classified as a living creature, a thing needs to eat, breathe, reproduce, and grow. Dogs do, rocks don't, trees do, plastic doesn't. Fire, by that definition, is vibrantly alive. It eats everything from wood to flesh, excreting the waste as ash, and it breathes air just like a human, taking in oxygen and emitting carbon. Fire grows, and as it spreads, it creates new fires that spread out and make new fires of their own. Fire drinks gasoline and excretes cinders, it fights for territory, it loves and hates. Sometimes when I watch people trudging through their daily routines, I think that fire is more alive than we are–brighter, hotter, more sure of itself and where it wants to go. Fire doesn't settle; fire doesn't tolerate; fire doesn't 'get by.'
Fire does.
Fire is.”
More quotes…