I absolutely loved this little book of short stories when I first read it in the early 2000s and was surprised that it was written in the 1970s. It wa...moreI absolutely loved this little book of short stories when I first read it in the early 2000s and was surprised that it was written in the 1970s. It was required reading when I was at school and is responsible for most of the books that I now own.
The stories are a rewriting of a few of the old fairy tales like Little Red Riding Hood and Bluebeard but with adult themes. We had to read a couple of the stories out loud during one lesson at school and let’s just say that there were a lot of red faces especially when it came to that naughty C-word!
I would recommend this if you'd like to see pre-Twilight supernatural horror/fantasy mixed in with the original pre-Disney fairy tales.
Definitely not for small children, or the faint-hearted. 5 stars.(less)
A great book but I thought that Katniss got away and won without killing ruthlessly, she only killed in self-defense or indirectly. I was relieved whe...moreA great book but I thought that Katniss got away and won without killing ruthlessly, she only killed in self-defense or indirectly. I was relieved when she told Peeta that the romance wasn't real for her. I want her to be with Gale, her relationship with him has a better chance of lasting.(less)
**spoiler alert** I haven’t read many newly-risen-vampire books but in direct competition of those I have read (The Turning and Undead and Unwed are a...more**spoiler alert** I haven’t read many newly-risen-vampire books but in direct competition of those I have read (The Turning and Undead and Unwed are all I can think of at the moment) Pretty When She Dies wins hands down. It was gritty and very realistic in that if vampires did exist I wouldn’t be surprised if when they first rose they had similar obstacles to overcome, namely the bloodlust and the inadvertent killing spree to sate it.
There are good vampires, which seem rare in this book, bad ones and perhaps some that fall in between. The reasons the Summoner was evil were made obvious; his boredom and loneliness after so many centuries of walking the Earth had warped his mind - in some books you never know what turned the “enemy” to the dark side.
The characters were believable and their development over the course of the book was well done. Amaliya was tough, she’s a survivor of both physical (what the Summoner does to her) and emotional (her cruel screwed up family) pain who has learned that running away when things get hard is the best thing to do but finds that with the Summoner on her tail there is nowhere for her to run that he won’t find her so she’s forced, mostly by Cian, to make a stand and fight. The romance between Amaliya and Cian progressed from “maybe I should kill her” to “he’s not my type he’s too short and clean” to forbidden love/lust and finally relief that they could be together. I liked Cian’s transformation. His appearance changed from clean shaven good guy in hiding to a rougher, more confident and alert politician ready to take on the vampires.
Obviously my favourite character was Grandmamma – wow, I was right there with her grandson Sergio in his shock, disbelief and finally laughter after the revelation about her love life. I was glad when their fear of what Amaliya had become gradually turned into acceptance, unlike the reactions of her cruel family. I have to admit that I fully expected Grandmamma to let her religion get in the way of her accepting Amaliya’s new state and was waiting for her to call her the spawn of Satan and attack her granddaughter. I wish she was my grandmother, she’s a fierce but loving woman – no man or woman would want to cross her.
I don’t really want to make this comparison but Pretty When She Dies does remind me of certain aspects of Laurell K Hamilton’s Anita Blake series. The Master (vampire) of the City system, the messed up zombies made from multiple body parts, the necromancy are all similar but I think this book is tighter and perhaps darker in its very isolating you-against-the-world nature. Overall this is an intriguing and worthwhile read for urban fantasy lovers.
I have read that there may be a sequel, Pretty When She Kills which I will definitely be interested in if and when it is released. (less)
Carmilla is a pre-Dracula vampire tale first published in 1872 of a 19th century woman living in Austria who unwittingly encounters the female vampire...moreCarmilla is a pre-Dracula vampire tale first published in 1872 of a 19th century woman living in Austria who unwittingly encounters the female vampire named Carmilla. There are some lesbian vibes coming from Carmilla which 19 year old Laura is very uncomfortable with but she can't seem to resist her. They have a mutual fascination with each other.
Carmilla is a story of coincidence, mystery and I would say trust and deception. I really liked that this story was fairly short and quite concise. I've been trying to read the vampire stories written before Dracula (1897), the only other I've read so far is The Vampyre by John William Polidori (1819).
If you find it difficult to read classics like me then listen to the audio, the narrator Tracey Childes did a good job of holding my interest. (less)
This was my first ever zombie read and I absolutely loved it. Jenni and Katie become sisters-in-arms, developing an unbreakable bond in the face of th...moreThis was my first ever zombie read and I absolutely loved it. Jenni and Katie become sisters-in-arms, developing an unbreakable bond in the face of the zombie holocaust. I was envious of their friendship. They came from very different backgrounds, their old lives lost and embark on new ones together and in Jenni’s case with a completely new personality as a crazy risk taker. Their survival was more about luck than skill, it was horrifying to see good people die so quickly and easily.
After reading this, for the first time I wished I lived in a gun-toting country. I want a gun, make that “guns”, plural, and a never-ending supply of bullets. You know, just in case.
My Favourite Bits The zombie old man outside the library clutching “Better Sex After 60″
Juan to Travis about Katie: “Ever see Chasing Amy?” “No.” “Eh, you’re fucked” “Yeah.”
Juan to Jenni: “Dropping from the harness is real loca, Loca. What if you had missed and hit the spikes?” “Um, you would miss me?” “Yeah, right.”
Mike's ominous "...the black man always gets it"
The fact that Jenni's mixed race: her mother was Mexican, dad Irish so she can speak Spanish.
**spoiler alert** On starting Catching Fire my first desire was to find out how Gale’s relationship with Katniss would change upon reuniting. I was ve...more**spoiler alert** On starting Catching Fire my first desire was to find out how Gale’s relationship with Katniss would change upon reuniting. I was very surprised when the first paragraphs summarised the months following her return with only a few lines about Gale. I had to wait until much later for a face-to-face with him. I was not pleased.
The scene with President Snow dropping by the house to warn Katniss that her actions had consequences was creepy. His breath smelled of blood, ew! By taking away her choices and forcing Katniss to marry Peeta he made things worse by making Katniss more and more likeable to the people even if it made her seem less defiant. Making the Victors of past Hunger Games compete in the Quarter Quell Hunger Games was an unbelievably stupid move, instantly making martyrs of the district champions. History really must have been rewritten if he couldn't see the mistakes he was making.
As for Peeta, I still can't see him with Katniss she belongs with Gale. They were strangers forced together who became allies in order to survive though that is pushing it as Katniss was keeping Peeta alive in both Games. The only things Peeta contributed were the lies to get good sponsors and to keep them both safe, and companionship - and I suppose his self-sacrificing nature when it comes to Katniss. In the real world, Gale is the one for her.
I think Haymitch was stupid to not inform Katniss of what was going on. I can understand not telling Peeta but Katniss could have saved Peeta from the Capitol, no wonder she tried to scratch his eyes out.
If I was President Snow I would torture Peeta for information on the rebellion and then kill him. There isn't a lot Snow could want from Katniss to use him as bait. It's too late to stop the uprisings, her defiance at the first games was the straw that broke the camel's back as it were - they weren't her fault. She may be a symbol for the rebellion but they aren't just fighting for her they're fighting for their right to keep their children safe. Even if Snow managed to lure her into a trap and tortured and killed her in public or private I doubt the uprisings would end, it would only encourage them to keep fighting so why keep Peeta alive? The same goes for Cinna though he may have brought his fate upon himself by being so brazen in his defiance, instantly turning Katniss's wedding dress into a funeral gown on stage in front of everyone.
As for District 12, well Snow can't bomb all of the districts can he? Where will the Capitol get food and clothing and those items necessary for survival? Who would he rule if he kills off all of the people? Some have all ready shown that they are willing to die for the cause. I'm looking forward to seeing District 13, I wonder if Bonnie and Twill made it there.
I may be biased in all of this because I do love Gale. I hope she lets him know she's not pregnant, not even close in fact so they can get closer. She chose him in book one and book two so I hope she chooses him again in book three.(less)
Good lord, that was bad. But I can understand why some like it. The humour, frivolity and flippant nature of the characters towards all things superna...moreGood lord, that was bad. But I can understand why some like it. The humour, frivolity and flippant nature of the characters towards all things supernatural just wasn't to my taste. Where were the disbelievers, those ignorant of the paranormal or the crazy fist-shaking fanatics hell-bent on ridding the world of evil doers?
Everything was designed to be quirky, to draw a laugh or a smile from the reader. From the melodramatic evil Lolita determined to take over the world any way possible, seducing and killing her way to her goal, to declarations that the world's about to end and the requisite tentacled monster. Basically it's a parody of old-style rural horror with a modern twist.
The zombie cows and turkeys were new and exciting but in general the humour didn't get many laughs from me. The two months of reading this hasn't been fun. I'm not sure why I forced myself to finish it today but I did it. Hallelujah.
If you like or are in the mood for an ultra lite camp and goofy horror in the same vein as Shaun of the Dead (which is much better than this book) or the Scary Movie franchise then you'll probably enjoy this.(less)
We will kill each other. We will kill each other. We will kill each other.
If I don’t kill, I will be killed. If I don’t kill, I will be killed. If I don’t kill, I will be killed.
'From a pool of third-year junior high school students, fifty classes were issued an annual death sentence. That was two thousand students that’s if each class consisted of forty students. No, more accurately, that was 1,950 students killed.Worse Yet,it wasn’t simply a mass execution. The students had to kill each other,competing for the title of survivor. It was the most terrifying version of musical chairs imaginable. But it was impossible to oppose the Program. It was impossible to protest anything the Republic of Greater East Asia did.'
A class of 42 fifteen year old Japanese students (50% male,50% female) are kidnapped from a school bus on a field trip to be taken to an island, fitted with collars containing remote-controlled explosives which will detonate if tampered with, given a pack consisting of bread, water, a compass, a map, a flashlight, a weapon (whether it’s useful or not is down to luck, banjo anyone?) and perhaps the weapon’s manual. As the game went on, every few hours announcements were made of the dead and new forbidden zones were introduced (if you get caught in a forbidden zone the collar explodes, say goodbye to your head) so as the number of pupils decreased so does the area in which they can hide and keeps them moving.
At the beginning of the book there is student list and a map of the island with a list of the forbidden zones so it's easier to follow. I copied the student list, crossed them off when they died, added how they died and what their original weapons were.
I found this really difficult to rate. There were both positives and negatives. Some really awesome chapters were filled with brilliant strategies and characterisation, on the other hand the high level of detail in describing computer hacking and rock music were not to my taste and bored me to tears. I tried to skip these.
The violence wasn’t overly done in my opinion. It was described in a few sentences then moved on. It’s gory but not so much that I was going to have horror-filled nightmares for days after reading it. The macabre humour became progressively better until I was chuckling at the way people were dying which I felt a little guilty about.
The personal stories of the students were intriguing. To see the psychology behind their decisions was incredibly interesting. I had fun totting up the victims of the serial killers, in fact my favourite characters were probably the ones to who “played the game”. Chapter 44 was pure genius.
Most if not all of the strategies possible to win this game were implemented by the students, some with more success than others but there were scenes that just blew me away. There were accidents, misunderstandings, suicides, self-defense and cold-blooded murder. Cause of death was sometimes hard to categorise, it could have been a number of events that led to a death.
However, I had some believability issues. First, the reason behind the game was unclear. At one point this is explained to Shogo as serving as a reminder to the people, that it was no use in going against the government, that there’s no point in gathering together and starting a revolution because the government will just shoot them down. This explanation seemed really flimsy, even though The Hunger Games uses a similar explanation - it uses it to better effect. The only real reason I could see was for the sport of high-ranking officials gambling on who would win.
Second, I had a hard time seeing the main narrator, Shuya live for so long. He wasn’t very practical and kept trying to save everyone at great risk to himself and others, and never learned from his mistakes. By rights he should have died early on but then this game is more about luck rather than brains and skill, which was brilliantly demonstrated by the author.
Third, the way in which the main characters were forced together annoyed me. I couldn’t see it, it was cheesy and predictable and totally not in keeping with the rest of the book.
Fourth, the stereotypical roles of class clown, the gay guy, star athlete and so on were all present but the teen issues had me rolling my eyes a few times but I accepted them because if you’re going to die all of those issues will become a hundred times more important than anything else, like trying to survive.
Fifth, the Terminator visuals I was getting from one individual especially when they were blown up was very unrealistic. This character almost never got injured. Speaking of movies, how come Mr. Tarantino hasn't adapted this yet? It's right up his alley.
Sixth, the ending. Hmm, I was really looking forward to something mind-blowingly (no pun intended) fantastic but I was disappointed with the way things turned out. I wasn’t expecting something that seemed so unachievable, no one should have survived the stunt pulled. The actions of one character completely going against his personality. It was a let down.
This is a Japanese-to-English translation, and a number of times that really showed especially at the beginning and became more polished as it went on. As I’m not Japanese there were some cultural references that were completely lost on me, and despite my problems with this book it still deserves kudos for it’s fairly original plot which no doubt inspired Suzanne Collins’ The Hunger Games trilogy which I absolutely adore, and prompted me to ask myself what I would do in that situation.
What would you do?
ETA: I've now seen the Japanese movie, and they made some positive changes. For instance, they gave a solid reason for the game, one that was very realistic. They also added a memorable scene where one of the girls checks to see if the girl she just killed was menstruating. o_O I still prefer the book though. Oddly, it was easier to follow.(less)
My first thought upon finishing was "Wow, that was damn good!".
Silent Blade may fall into the romance category but it is far from soppy. It's futurist...moreMy first thought upon finishing was "Wow, that was damn good!".
Silent Blade may fall into the romance category but it is far from soppy. It's futuristic revenge against a man who devastated a young girl and her family in the name of his "freedom".
For a short story the characters were remarkably complex and well fleshed out. The power plays and the tippings of the balance of power between Celino and Meli were brilliantly done. In a futuristic world of mafia-style families and assassinations galore Meli manages to exact her revenge and have a happy ever after.
After reading and loving the Kate Daniels series this was another fantastic offering from Ilona Andrews.(less)
This was a toughie. The Tale of the Vampire Bride puts a different spin on Dracula from a view of a new "bride", Glynis, and is made up of mostly her...moreThis was a toughie. The Tale of the Vampire Bride puts a different spin on Dracula from a view of a new "bride", Glynis, and is made up of mostly her journal entries and letters.
I wanted to seriously give up about 10% in and briefly hated the author for subjecting my mind to such cruelty. Yes, I know this is horror but I figured it would be just blood-and-guts, not the personal kind of horrors happening one after another in such a short space of time that would be everyone's worst nightmare.
The beginning is deceptive -just a loving but argumentative family travelling Europe in order to find their daughters husbands after Glynis offends every suitor with her outspoken ways. And they're unwittingly led to the home of Dracula. He takes Glynis to be his fourth bride but she fights him and his rules at every turn. He attempts to break her using various and sickening methods. He doesn't value life and has no concept of compassion. She refuses to give him the satisfaction of breaking her and suffers the consequences along with her vampire sisters (the other brides).
Glynis is an incredibly strong yet vulnerable character. She's a modern woman, a feminist who believes she should have the same freedoms as any man. She's intelligent, charming and witty. Her strength of will is formidable and her bravery, admirable. I was on her side from the very beginning.
I don't want to give too many details away because I appreciated this book so much more for having no idea what was around the corner as I read it. It's not predictable, you can never tell what will befall Glynis next. The writing is amazing. I found myself right there with Glynis, every step of the way, and despite being set in 1819, I never tired of the language or of the politeness and propriety of the time period as I usually am.
Due to my discomfort I sometimes wished the book was shorter, not because it wasn't of good quality I just wanted Glynis's suffering to end just like she did, whether that meant her escape or her death. However, she did experience some better days (or should that be nights?) in the hell of her captivity. It does get easier to read as you go on.
It must've been fate for me to read this when I did because the same day I picked this up I had read a magazine article on Natascha Kampusch's 3,096 Days, the real-life story of her kidnapping and years of imprisonment by Wolfgang Priklopil and her escape in 2006 when she was 18. I found myself comparing her views of her kidnapper and Glynis's and they were quite similar.
It's surprising to me that people can survive so much without breaking. I admire anyone real or fictional who can bear such trauma and still be intact when they come out the other side.
Warning: To those of you who avoid books with rape, it does contain more than one rape scene but it's not overly described and does have a purpose and although horrific, I wasn't offended by it's use.(less)
My first one-star rating of the year, sigh. Though I was very tempted to give Flirt the same treatment, it got off with 2 stars.
The is the first graph...moreMy first one-star rating of the year, sigh. Though I was very tempted to give Flirt the same treatment, it got off with 2 stars.
The is the first graphic novel I've ever read and boy was it bad. This is supposed to be a prequel to Guilty Pleasures. It includes Anita and JC's first meeting which DOES NOT match the story given in the series. JC says that he fell in love with Anita at first sound, saw her gun and knew she could defend herself and wouldn't wait around to be rescued - only the meeting in The First Death doesn't live up to this description. She doesn't burst in guns blazing, she's actually quite timid for her. She also hunts with Edward for the first time though this is not their first meeting. This is when Anita is given the cross burn by human servants and Manny is retired by his wife after being tortured.
The First Death is not a work of art lovingly created. There is nothing new here, just a story cobbled together from the bits and pieces the author managed to remember.
However, the story is only half of the book. The second half is The Guilty Pleasures Handbook, basically a character and species index. I haven't read it, I just looked at the pictures, which brings me to the character representations. Poor JC, he doesn't look right. In a few of the illustrations he's like an Anita double just taller. He's too feminine, I imagined his hair to have a little less curl than Anita's and a little shorter because he doesn't start growing it out until he realises Anita likes long hair. There are two representations of Bert, one in the story and the other in the Handbook - the story one is better, the Handbook one makes him look ancient but very well dressed - mutton dressed as lamb. Other characters also seemed flawed in appearance like Nikolaos, she appears older than the child she's meant to be.
Overall, this is not a good book. Be smart, do not waste money on this. If you have to read it, borrow it, it will save you the hassle of trying to get rid of the thing on eBay.(less)
This is the graphic novel of the first half of Guilty Pleasures (Anita Blake, #1). I enjoyed this way more the than the prequel, Anita Blake, Vampire...moreThis is the graphic novel of the first half of Guilty Pleasures (Anita Blake, #1). I enjoyed this way more the than the prequel, Anita Blake, Vampire Hunter: The First Death. The illustrations are better and the story follows the book exactly. There were a couple of points when I thought something had been missed out but I was OK with that because I could remember them from when I'd read the novel. All of the important and best bits are in this and that's what matters.
Overall, I'm pleasantly surprised that this was witty and smooth and told the story of the book really well. I've all ready reserved volume 2 at my library and I can't wait to read it.(less)
I've really enjoyed reliving this story over these two volumes of graphic novels of the first book in this series. Seeing the images of Phillip at the...moreI've really enjoyed reliving this story over these two volumes of graphic novels of the first book in this series. Seeing the images of Phillip at the end made what happened to him even more real for me. I loved seeing the ghouls but I think they were supposed to have a few more human features so you could tell they were human once upon a time. I'm not sure if it's just me but Jean Claude looked more manly than in volume 1 which I liked. Overall, this was a good read.(less)
I read this to challenge myself, and challenge me it did. Within a few pages there was rape, humiliation and degradation and it only got worse from th...moreI read this to challenge myself, and challenge me it did. Within a few pages there was rape, humiliation and degradation and it only got worse from then on. Every now and then I would have to pause to take a breath in order to continue.
I was made uncomfortable, appalled and utterly disgusted. I desperately wanted to put this down but curiosity won out. How was it going to end?
The constant repetition ground down my abhorrence of some harrowing events which take place, to the point where I was almost desensitised and eventually bored by the end. Can you believe it?!
Although I understood the lesson (which usually appear in fairy tales), I can't say I appreciated or enjoyed the delivery of that lesson. I have read books that have conveyed it in a more...palatable fashion. That being said, the language was easy to read, if the content was not.
I recommend this to those not easily offended, and even if you're not, you might want to hesitate reading this anyway.
FYI, you don't have to be a prude to be shocked by this book. (less)
I've only ever read The Raven by Poe which I absolutely adored and although I didn't enjoy this short story with as much relish, it was still rather g...moreI've only ever read The Raven by Poe which I absolutely adored and although I didn't enjoy this short story with as much relish, it was still rather good. The suspense, the deed and the resulting guilt driving him to confess were all done rather well. I must read more by this author.(less)
This one covered about 4 months and ends with Christmas, 9 months after the first day. The newly established community begins to organise themselves b...moreThis one covered about 4 months and ends with Christmas, 9 months after the first day. The newly established community begins to organise themselves by electing a mayor, searching for supplies, rescuing survivors giving rise to more POVs, and attempting to expand their living quarters to include the hotel. This is interrupted by a crime, attempted rape, on which everyone has an opinion on how to judge and punish the perpetrator but the decision is taken out of the peoples’ hands when an unknown vigilante takes action. Having to deal with those who completely abandoned their humanity meant more tough decisions had to be made, doing previously unethical and criminal acts in order to do protect the majority. The old adage “the needs of the few outway the needs of the many” came to mind. I loved all of this. They really were “fighting to survive”.
Fertility as a theme makes an appearance in both the lives of our Thelma and Louise as (view spoiler)[Katie tries for a baby and Jenni reveals she can't have any more children due to her husband forcing her get sterilised. Yet another reason to hate the bastard. (hide spoiler)]["br"]>["br"]>(less)
I’ll admit right now: I couldn’t stop myself from reading the ending. I needed reassurance that the people I’d grown to respect and care for would sur...moreI’ll admit right now: I couldn’t stop myself from reading the ending. I needed reassurance that the people I’d grown to respect and care for would survive. Of course, not everyone did. In fact, my favourite character had died. I was devastated so I put the book down until recently when I gathered my courage and soldiered through. There are many deaths from differing causes: a common one was suicide (committed for varying reasons) which was sometimes preferable to the alternative.
The diverse nature of the population of survivors created much conflict. They were of differing ethnicities, religions, morals and sexuality. I loved this aspect. Intolerance and political (and social class) aspirations and the resulting manipulations were the source of many problems the survivors had to contend with. The thinning of the veil between the living and the dead was understandable when there were more corpses than living, breathing people.
My Favourite Bits The discussion of whether a zombie was male or female until we see their naked groin. Ick. Ick. Ick. The head in a flower pot. Using toasters to decapitate the dead.
Overall This was a brilliant trilogy showcasing the very best and worst that humanity has to offer. Every character has a unique personality. I cheered when they triumphed, grieved the losses of life and felt frustration at conflicts and failures. I was happy when new loves were found and sad when they felt guilty for surviving and living their lives when their loved ones were dead. However, survival meant that even good people did things that logically may be wrong but in the fight to live and breathe and protect those you love makes these acts were justifiable. Despite emotional breakdowns and moments of weakness I admired the strength and resourcefulness of them all, although a couple of characters had crazy on their side (like Calhoun) and we learn that they weren’t as crazy or as paranoid as we first believed. Even the loonies proved they were useful and needed.
Every aspect of society were represented: the old and the young, the disabled, politicians, the social classes, disaster relief agencies, the criminal justice system, the military as well as personal characteristics: the selfless, the honourable, the brave and the weak, and the list goes on.
All of this makes me I wonder how I would do their situation. Would I commit suicide? Would I seek safety in numbers or be a loner? How selfless would I be? Could I sacrifice myself for others? I don’t know.
I laughed and I cried throughout this trilogy. It all felt so real. I highly recommend everyone with a strong stomach to read these books so they can experience this vivid reality for themselves.(less)
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 sociopath...moreAs 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 family-run mortuary and black comedy, and Dexter for the serial killer with rules but I noticed the one thing they have in common: Michael C. Hall. He stars in both shows. Is he Dan Wells? If not, he must be a fan because the similarities between the TV and book are uncanny. This is good by the way. I loved both.
Anyway, I digress.
Named after the actor and consequently a serial killer, and a weapon, John Wayne Cleaver struggles to appear normal in his quest to not let his inner monster out. In order to succeed he studies what he doesn’t want to become: The Serial Killer. He knows about them all: number of kills, technique used, forensic profiles -the lot. You see, if he understands their motives, what makes them tick then he can create rules for himself to prevent him from becoming...Just. Like. Them.
John as an adult?
His obsession to the outsider is unsettling as it appears he idolises and wants to imitate the killers. He talks about it to anyone and everyone, even submitting school reports on them:
”The project I did last year was on Jeffrey Dahmer,” I said. “He was a cannibal who kept severed heads in his freezer.” “I remember now,” said Max, his eyes darkening. “Your posters gave me nightmares. That was boss.” “Nightmares are nothing,” I said. “Those posters gave me a therapist.”
John comes clean with the therapist for the most part but because he’s under 18 his issues are discussed with his mother. She doesn't understand, instead she gets mad at him for things he can’t (or is desperately fighting to) control.
You see, he has many of the predictors of becoming what he fears: he’s an intelligent and insightful sociopath who’s studied human behaviours in order to understand and emulate them, he works part-time in a mortuary run by his family (helping with the embalming process so he’s constantly surrounded by death, natural and otherwise), and he’s killed and cut into animals with no human victims. Yet.
Throughout, John’s level-headedness cons you into believing he isn’t really a bad guy. There’s nothing wrong with him. He's just your typical teenager. That is until you witness one of his outbursts when he’s pushed to breaking point. The monster comes out, and he ain’t nice. It’s quite shocking as you begin to understand what John has to contend with in order to remain part of society without giving into his urges. It's a chilling reminder that he is not an innocent hero even though you're rooting for him.
In a way Wells addresses the subject of vigilantes:
’I wasn’t sad, I was thoughtful; I didn’t feel bad that ________ was dead, just guilty that I hadn’t been able to stop his killer . I wondered then if I was doing all of this because I wanted to save the good guys, or if I just wanted to kill the bad guy. And I wondered if that made a difference.’
Does it matter his intentions, altruistic or not, as long as he disposes of the murderer? But then what do you do with the one that did the murdering? You still have a killer on your hands. He may hurt someone else, perhaps a completely innocent person -a conundrum.
My favourite scene was the ultimate comeback to a bully’s comments at the school dance. John made it into a personal threat so that not only was it scary but 100% true which made it all the scarier. In Max’s words “that was awesome”. It totally was. :D
I Am Not a Serial Killer was incredibly realistic. There were moments that really resonated with me -a testament to Wells' research and a great understanding of the human psyche. Everything was so well-developed, the characters and the dysfunctional relationships all realistic, and here’s the But.
(view spoiler)[The demon. (hide spoiler)] It was so out there. The setting of the book was in the real world, nothing paranormal about it and all of a sudden we have this (view spoiler)[hideous beast (hide spoiler)]. Huh? I wasn’t quite sure if he was real or a figment of John’s imagination. Was he beginning to lose his mind? Hallucinating? Is he schizophrenic? Was he the killer, projecting what he was on to someone else? This is what studying psychology does to you. You can’t take anything at face value. Eventually I was left with a final question: Was it going to be a Sixth Sense twist ending?
Which leads me to the different ways certain aspects of this book can be interpreted. On the surface, instead of teen angst we get a fight to remain "normal", to fit in with everyone else, to be accepted by society –all classic signs of being a teenager. Perfect stuff for a YA novel, right? Sneaky.
A 15-year old taking on a serial killer is perfectly normal in the real world. It happens everyday. Maybe not. John tries pointing the good guys in the right direction. It was lambs to the slaughter. Cannon fodder. "Messy" doesn't quite cover it. So it was up to him, as an expert on killers and with an inner demon of his very own he understood how this one worked. Unfortunately he has to sacrifice his hard won control in order to fight the demon. And once the cat’s out of the bag, he can’t shove it back in. Eep!
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