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I Am Not a Serial Killer

(John Cleaver #1)

3.78  ·  Rating details ·  26,888 ratings  ·  3,732 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

Trade Paperback, 271 pages
Published March 30th 2010 by Tor Books (first published March 30th 2009)
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Travis I'm really disapointed it went supernatural. I was enjoying this more when I thought it was like a teenaged Dexter. Now it's just another fantasy…moreI'm really disapointed it went supernatural. I was enjoying this more when I thought it was like a teenaged Dexter. Now it's just another fantasy story it's not as much fun. :((less)
Bob Defendi This one is fairly dark, but here's a good benchmark: The opening chapter involves work in a mortuary and it's the goriest thing in the book. It…moreThis one is fairly dark, but here's a good benchmark: The opening chapter involves work in a mortuary and it's the goriest thing in the book. It didn't bother me, and if you have a chance to read that chapter, you'll know that if you can handle it, you can handle everything after. I've seen Dan hand the book to a potential customer at a con and just have them read that chapter to see if the books for them.(less)

Community Reviews

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3.78  · 
Rating details
 ·  26,888 ratings  ·  3,732 reviews

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Miranda Reads
Oct 01, 2017 rated it it was amazing
What if a serial killer...doesn't want to become a murderer?

John Wayne Cleaver knows he has all the hallmarks of a serial killer.

He likes to stalk people, hurt animals and fantasizes about killing friends and family.
Fear is a ... it's a weird thing, when you think about it. People are only afraid of other things, they're never afraid of themselves.
John is afraid of himself - or at least he's afraid of what he could become.

So, he's created a set of rules avoid any situation or thought that
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 rated it it was amazing  ·  (Review from the author)  ·  review of another edition
Quite possibly the best book ever written.
Jan 01, 2011 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
May 21, 2010 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
Feb 11, 2011 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.
Chelsea ❤Peril Please❤

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 Brown (Toastx2)
May 24, 2010 rated it really liked it
Shelves: reviewed
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 01, 2011 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.
Coos Burton
"No soy un serial killer" fue para mí un gran descubrimiento, definitivamente es de aquellos libros por los que no daba mucho, pero me terminó sorprendiendo de una manera positiva. Me gustó la forma en la que la historia está narrada, al ser del género young adult yo esperaba un tono mucho más light que el que me encontré. Los crímenes en esta novela están perfectamente construidos y detallados, como para revolverle las tripas a quienes estén dispuestos a adentrarse en los avernos de un adolesce ...more
Oct 17, 2013 rated it really liked it

«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
Feb 07, 2017 rated it it was ok
1.5 stars

Despite the obvious similarity to Jeff Lindsay's Dexter series and the overwhelming feeling of revulsion from a YA-ish novel wallowing in the realm of real-life serial killers, I still was somewhat intrigued by Dan Wells' I Am Not a Serial Killer and plowed through the the first 100 pages like a starving man breaking a fast with an Italian BMT from Subway...

...but then realized that the delicious sandwich I'd been nom-noming on was made of inedible food stuff. (Wax? Offal? Fecal matte
Apr 19, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Surprisingly good...
With all the mixed reviews I've read, I wasn't expecting to enjoy it so much.

John Wayne Cleaver is a TEENAGER. A loner and freak. His mother and aunt owns a mortuary and he helps with the dead bodies when they arrive. His father has all but disappeared from his life.
John Wayne Cleaver is a SOCIOPATH. He is obsessed with serial killers and knows exactly what he is, but he makes himself follow some self-imposed rules to keep from becoming a killer himself.
John Wayne Cleaver is
C.G. Drews
I'm going to stay nice and calm during this review. You know, calm. Ha. Ha.


But I will be calm. I promise.

If you're looking for a freaky YA book, this is it. I'm not a YA horror expert, or anything, but this is the most scary book I've read. Which is why it got 5-stars, of course. Who doesn't like to be freaked out of their fuzzy socks?

Characters? Our narrator is 15-year-old John Wayne Cleaver. He has sociopathic think of a person w
Mar 02, 2010 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
Mary ♥
May 13, 2018 rated it really liked it
4/5 stars

I simply felt alone, one leaf sitting miles away from a giant, communal pile.


I Am Not A Serial Killer was a book the existence of which I learned exactly this year. I found it, put it in my TBR, and that was it. Once I had it in my hands, I started reading and found myself absolutely absorbed by the story of a child obsessed with serial killers, who was ready to go to great lenghts to prevent himself from becoming one too. I read about mysterious murders that shook a small town to its
Sep 08, 2010 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
Jun 01, 2009 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
Bark (2 Dumb 2 Read Blurbs)
This is a weird book but I think I liked it well enough. Let’s see if I can work out a rating by the time I stop writing out my feelings here.

“I think that fate wants me to become a serial killer.”

John Wayne Cleaver is a teen doing his best not to murder the cretins that surround him. I’m not joking about this either. He has serious serial killer in the making vibes. Even his therapist thinks so. His family runs a mortuary and he’s been exposed to death since he was a child but he’s the only one
Rachel Aranda
Jan 10, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: library-rentals
How has it taken me so long to find and read this book!? It's absolutely fantastic and might be a new favorite book and series for me.

Lately I've read books that have been meh or okay. Think it might have been a mini reading slump as it was hard for me to have interest in reading. I'd grown a bit bored so I took a break when the holidays came. Decided to try this book as it was suggested by my fiance purely on the fact that he found the title amusing. Haha he was definitely right about the titl
Aug 27, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-in-2017
Ugodno sam iznenadjen jer je drugacija od bilo cega sto sam citao u posljednje vrijeme. Brzo se cita i nije nimalo dosadna. Mix paranormalnog i trilera je odlicno uklopen plus na to sve dodati psihopatskog mladica koji svoju psiho stranu zove: Mr. Monster... fantasticno.
Radujem se nastavcina...
Ocjena: Nesto izmedju 4 i 5., ali da ne cjepidlacim, neka bude 5 jer sam se pravo dobro proveo.
Feb 21, 2010 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
2016 Reading Challenge 27#: Un libro de misterio que involucre un asesinato

Este libro es tan bueno por muchas razones. Una de ellas es que el protagonista es un sociópata, y yo amo estar en la mente de esas personas que no tienen corazón.

Normalmente los asesinos en serie son, en realidad casi siempre, esclavos de sus compulsiones. Matan porque tienen que hacerlo y no pueden evitarlo.

John no es capaz de sentir como los demás, por no decir que no es capaz de sentir en lo absoluto. Él, se esf
Apr 25, 2010 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
Apr 30, 2015 rated it really liked it
Vale, quizá el que haya encontrado este libro simpatiquísimo sea extraño, porque no es un tema agradable y mucho menos para conversarlo (ya lo intenté, y no recibí miradas normales), pero es súper interesante leer un libro escrito desde la perspectiva de un sociópata y todo lo que hace para controlar sus tendencias. Además, rarezas aparte, John es muy inteligente y, para qué negarlo, carismático cuando quiere. Supongo que el que se haya propuesto como meta detener a otro asesino (aunque este no ...more
Mar 24, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Hace como dos años que lo leí y debo admitir que me gustó bastante en ese tiempo. Una historia muy oscura para estar en la rama juvenil, algunos detalles me parecieron innecesarios, pero la trama me mantuvo en enganchada hasta la ultima pagina.

Victoria Schwab
Well that was not what I expected! But still very good. I have a weakness for serial killers.
Jan 27, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
John Wayne Cleaver ist 15 Jahre alt, ganz offiziell ein Soziopath, gelegentlicher Bettnässer, liebt es Tote einzubalsamieren und ist definitiv der Dämonenjäger meines Herzens!
Oct 26, 2010 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
Popsugar 2018 reading challenge: BÁSICO
9. Un libro acerca de un villano o antihéroe - En varios niveles, este libro es perfecto para esta categoría

Un libro YA que más bien parece dirigido a chicos de entre 13 y 16 años, pero que disfruté bastante. Un libro rápido de leer, que tiene una trama "interesante" y que me llamó mucho a atención. El plot twist me pareció bastante bueno y sentí que conectaba muy bien con la historia.

Los detalles negativos que le veo es que es terriblemente repetitivo (Sí
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Around the Year i...: I Am Not a Serial Killer, by Dan Wells 12 66 Dec 07, 2018 12:37PM  
Smith English 4250: I am Not a Serial Killer 1 7 Dec 04, 2018 02:33PM  
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Desafío 'La Cosa ...: I Am Not A Serial Killer (John Cleaver #1), por Dan Wells 10 29 Oct 19, 2016 06:16AM  
  • Blackburn
  • Operation Hero
  • The Kult
  • Pressure
  • Children of Paranoia (Children of Paranoia, #1)
  • Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (Harry Potter, #7)
  • Morning Is Dead
  • House of Fallen Trees
  • Letters in the Attic
  • Slice of Cherry
  • All for One
  • The Jigsaw Man
  • Career Day (I Hunt Killers, #0.3)
  • Duncan's Diary: Birth of a Serial Killer
  • Fathom
  • Hater (Hater, #1)
  • Servant of a Dark God
  • The Isle of Blood (The Monstrumologist, #3)
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

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)
  • Nothing Left to Lose (John Cleaver, #6)
“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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