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

3.76 of 5 stars 3.76  ·  rating details  ·  14,707 ratings  ·  2,264 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)
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Reader Q&A

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
17th out of 617 books — 956 voters
I Am Not A Serial Killer by Dan WellsI Don't Want to Kill You by Dan WellsMisery by Stephen KingMr. Monster by Dan WellsThe Silence of the Lambs by Thomas Harris
Best Books About Psychopaths
1st out of 59 books — 99 voters

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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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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 5 of 5 stars  ·  (Review from the author)  ·  review of another edition
Quite possibly the best book ever written.
Jan 16, 2011 Flannery rated it 2 of 5 stars
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
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
Jul 20, 2013 Vilda rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  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
Nov 26, 2011 Stacy rated it 1 of 5 stars
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.
Jason (RawBlurb)
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
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.

«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 4 of 5 stars
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
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
Apr 19, 2011 seak rated it 5 of 5 stars
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
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 4 of 5 stars
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
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
Jamie L
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
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
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
Alex Ristea
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)
Sofia Teixeira
Não Sou Um Serial Killer foi uma leitura divertida, descontraída e muito engraçada. Foi a primeira obra de Dan Wells que li e adorei a sua escrita e as personagens que criou.

Falar do livro, tendo a sinopse neste post, quase parece despropositado porque esta já diz tudo, ou quase tudo, de relevante no que toca ao nosso personagem principal John Wayne Cleaver. No entanto, quero realçar que foi uma das personagens literárias de que mais gostei.
Apesar de muita gente poder relacionar este personagem
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
Aaron Vincent
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
Jack Heath
When writing reviews, I'm sometimes tempted to say, 'I loved this book from the first page.' But this is the first time I can honestly say I loved a book before then. I fell in love at first sight with this book. I was hypnotised by the cover, blood red with four deep gouges in it, and I adored the title, I Am Not A Serial Killer.

Because it made such a terrific first impression, I expected to be disappointed by the contents. I wasn't.

The book is about a fifteen year-old who works in a mortuary,
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Ranting Dragon

A young adult thriller with strong supernatural elements, I Am Not A Serial Killer is the first book in the John Cleaver Trilogy and the debut novel of author Dan Wells, one of the authors on the popular podcast Writing Excuses.

I Am Not A Serial Killer tells the story of fifteen-year-old John Cleaver, a teenage boy that has an obsession with serial killers and sociopathic tendencies that he keeps in check with a strict list of rules. But when a grisly stri
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
colleen the fabulous fabulaphile

Wow. That was all kinds of wow.

Not really the sort of thing I usually read, though I did watch Dexter for a few seasons, and this book is often described as 'Dexter-Lite'. I've never read the books so I can't compare but I tend to think of it as more 'Dexter-Young'.

It follows a 15 year old boy who is a sociopath and who has all the markers for being a serial killer, but is determined not to become one. Then a serial killer comes to his sleepy small town. What will happen?

The descriptions of
There's good news and bad news.

The good news is the author Dan Wells has created one of the most interesting protagonisst I've read since...well...Dexter. The other good news that John Wayne Cleaver is not a Dexter wanna-be but an unique take-off on the serial killer idea. Cleaver is a 15 year old boy who is obsessed with serial killers mainly because he realizes he has the same characteristics. He sets up a lot of rules to keep him from being the monster he thinks he is. Living in a morgue prob
Wow! What an impressive debut novel! John Wayne Cleaver seems fated to be a serial killer - with connections to famous serial killers built in through his name, and a predilection for death and murder, he somehow manages to be a very charming, if sociopathic, 15-year-old narrator. This is a surprising blend of genres - it can appeal to the YA market with the youth of the narrator, mystery and thriller readers will be pleased with the small-town-under-a-serial-killer’s-siege premise, horror-lover ...more
*** Spoilers in second half of this review ***

I had to sleep on this before reviewing, having finished it very late in a compulsive reading session, and feeling vaguely disappointed in the story. There really isn't a good way to discuss my observations without disclosing some major plot spoilers, potential readers be warned.

First, it should be said, I really enjoyed the writing style. Wells handles language well, and creates a sense of urgency in getting to the next page... next chapter... the
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YA Spanish Reads: I am not a serial killer (Marzo) 16 152 Mar 26, 2014 07:19AM  
The Ultimate ABC ...: I Am Not A Serial Killer by Dan Wells 1 19 Mar 14, 2012 05:14AM  
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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)
  • Untitled (John Cleaver, #5)
  • Untitled (John Cleaver, #6)
Partials (The Partials Sequence, #1) Fragments (Partials, #2) Ruins (Partials Sequence, #3) Mr. Monster (John Cleaver, #2) I Don't Want to Kill You (John Cleaver, #3)

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.”
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