15 of 15 people found the following review helpful
Elizabeth A. White
- Published on Amazon.com
"Being partially to blame for your own therapist's death is a tough thing to deal with, especially because you don't have a therapist anymore to help you through it. Sometimes irony just kicks you in the teeth like that." - John Wayne Cleaver
Yes, John Wayne Cleaver is back, dark humor intact even if his grasp on Mr. Monster is not. In his first outing, I Am Not A Serial Killer, we learned that fifteen-year-old John had been diagnosed by his therapist as a sociopath, and self-diagnosed as a (potential) serial killer. The dark side of John's psyche, which he calls Mr. Monster, is always just below the surface, struggling to escape while John tries desperately to keep it under wraps. That struggle became decidedly more difficult after John confronted and killed a serial killer who was stalking his town in I Am Not A Serial Killer... Mr. Monster's now had a taste of what he wants.
As if trying to keep your homicidal impulses under control isn't enough for a teenager to deal with, Mr. Monster finds John juggling a host of additional challenges: a mother who knows "what" John is but refuses to discuss it; an absent father; an older sister in an abusive relationship (boy does Mr. Monster want a piece of that guy); and an attempted first romance (made extremely awkward by the violent thoughts Mr. Monster has about the object of John's attention). Oh, there are also the horribly tortured dead bodies that start turning up around town, and the FBI agent who seems a little too interested in John's thoughts on the murders.
Mr. Monster is told from John's point of view, as was I Am Not A Serial Killer, that first-person narrative being absolutely crucial for the reader to be privy to the war raging in John between his desire to be normal and Mr. Monster's desire to be set free. And what a war it is. While I Am Not A Serial Killer certainly had its moments, the violence is exponentially increased in Mr. Monster. The descriptions of the damage inflicted upon the victims of the town's new serial killer spare no detail, and the showdown depicted in the last quarter of the book between John and the killer - and between John and Mr. Monster - borders on the uncomfortable.
Rather than being gratuitous, however, author Dan Wells has developed John Wayne Cleaver with such nuance that the reader understands pulling any punches when describing the brutality John both faces and wants to commit would not be honest to the character. Wells is certainly not afraid to go places the reader may not necessarily want to, and has obviously done a tremendous amount of research into the psychology of serial killers. That John has done the same makes his level of self-awareness and struggle with Mr. Monster incredibly sympathetic... despite the fact his seriously twisted fantasies will creep you the hell out. It's a nifty balancing act for Wells to have pulled off.
You don't have to have read I Am Not A Serial Killer to enjoy Mr. Monster, but you're going to want to read it so go ahead and pick them both up if you haven't already. Just don't start either book unless you're prepared to finish it in one sitting... and don't read them late at night.
11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
- Published on Amazon.com
Mr. Monster picks up shortly after the events of I am Not a Serial Killer. John Wayne Cleaver is still struggling with his sociopathic tendencies, brought to the fore in the last book when he squared off against a supernatural opponent, when a new killer comes to town. John has to call on his inner Mr. Monster to fight the new threat, but the real question is which is more dangerous, the new killer, or Mr. Monster?
I enjoyed the first one but I liked this one more. Dan Well's story was excellent, and makes you really care about the protagonist. Mr. Monster is darker than its predecessor, and there are a few scenes where you are find yourself cringing and saying "Oh, John, don't do THAT!" But then he goes and does it, and you're surprised to find that you care about the character's struggle even more.
I can't comment on the ending without giving any spoilers, but it ended on a note that set up the last book in the series perfectly, and it was simply awesome.
-Larry Correia, author of Monster Hunter International
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
- Published on Amazon.com
Format: Kindle Edition
Dan Wells has certainly done his homework. He pulled me in with I Am Not A Serial Killer, his first look at John Wayne Cleaver, his well-named sociopath (named for both John Wayne Gacy and a weapon). While the first novel explored the relationship between John's good side and "Mr. Monster," his twisted inner demon, this latest novel delves much farther into John's relationship with his own psychosis.
As someone who's always been a little fascinated with serial killers (I've stopped reading the true crime genre but still enjoy thrillers), John is an interesting anti-hero: he wants to be good, but he has to fight himself for the privilege, and he doesn't have any of the usual rewards for being good that the rest of the populace have since he doesn't have positive emotions. We see his anger and fear reactions later in the book, but he really doesn't experience love or other positive emotions like most people do.
John's war with Mr. Monster, as well as his interactions with other characters (his mother, aunt, sister, first crush, other kids at school, and an FBI agent he talks to about the murders occurring in town) reveal a lot about his mental state. Wells has done a brilliant job capturing not only a young mind, but a young sociopathic mind in turmoil. Well done!
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
- Published on Amazon.com
This is Dan Wells's second book featuring John Wayne Cleaver. The first book, I Am Not a Serial Killer, introduced John, a fifteen year-old who is obsessed with serial killers. He has an insatiable appetite for information about them. He reads books about them, he studies their profiles and crimes, and he feels a special kind of kinship to them. John is not a serial killer, but he knows he's destined to become one.
Not surprisingly, whenever I describe these books to people, most people say something like, "Sounds kind of like Dexter." There are definitely similarities between the two. Both of them are disturbingly likeable characters. But while Dexter gives in regularly to his "dark passenger" by killing pedophiles and others who he rationalizes are deserving of his skills, John is trying to maintain his tenuous control over his "Mr. Monster," hoping to never begin killing. He sees a therapist regularly and has devised a list of rules that he forces himself follow which he feels will prevent him from ever starting down that road.
Mr. Monster picks up a couple of months after its predecessor left off and I wouldn't recommend reading it without first having read the other. I think Dan Wells is an author whose popularity is going to grow if he continues to write books as interesting and entertaining as these two have been.
4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
- Published on Amazon.com
Check out more of our reviews, and an interview with Dan Wells, at Elitist Book Reviews.
When we first started Elitist Book Reviews, we set things rolling with a review of a (then) UK only release. It was a YA Urban Fantasy/Horror novel by Dan Wells that goes by the title; I AM NOT A SERIAL KILLER--a story about John Wayne Cleaver, a young teenager who has all the markers of becoming a serial killer. Think of it as a young Dexter (the Jeff Lindsay character), but much better written, better paced, more character-driven, and containing borderline paranormal aspects done right. In short, it was, for us, one of the best novels released in 2009.
This is the part where we say how much we love Dan Wells, and the character he created in John Cleaver. Not only does the second book, MR. MONSTER, live up to the expectations of the fantastic first novel, it completely blows that first novel out of the water. MR. MONSTER is better in every way than its predecessor. If I AM NOT A SERIAL KILLER was one of the best novels of 2009, MR. MONSTER is currently one of the best novels of the past FIVE years.
We. Freaking. Loved. It.
Now, for your benefit, we should probably mention that we have read this book before. Like, a long time ago, in its draft form. If you haven't figured it out by now, we are good friends with Dan. We are test readers for him. And before you ask, no, we are not biased. We are friends with plenty of authors whose work we don't foam from the mouth over.
Anyways, back to the review.
There are a lot of reasons why we loved MR. MONSTER. First of all, we just love being able to read another story about John Wayne Cleaver. MR. MONSTER takes place several months after the events of I AM NOT A SERIAL KILLER, and from the first page, we hit the ground running. The final events of the first book have taken a toll on our teenage protagonist. Why is that important? Because Dan shows us within a few pages that all actions have consequences in his story-arc. John Cleaver is a character undergoing a metamorphosis, and it is a measure of Dan's writing that he can pull it off so convincingly. His PoV is simply one of the best, and one of our favorites, in speculative fiction.
Another great thing about MR. MONSTER is its ability to stand as its own novel. Yes, it is a sequel. Yes, you should read the first book. But really, MR. MONSTER is its own...uh...monster. Now what do we mean by this? Well obviously the book isn't meant to be a stand alone. In fact, pay careful attention to how we said it could stand on its own, not be a standalone. The plot feels fairly episodic, but not in the ridiculous serial drama sort of fashion where the character never changes. No really, a person, in order to appreciate what the protagonist is going through, needs to read the first book. The first is all about preventing the release of John Wayne Cleaver's inner turmoil. The second focuses, after all that trying to bottle it up, on what happens when it is released.
By setting up the book this way, in an episodic feel, Dan Wells neatly avoids the potential pitfalls of writing the middle book of a trilogy. This time around, John Cleaver is living with the consequences of his actions in book 1. He is dealing with an agent from the FBI. He continues his struggles with a dysfunctional family. And, of course, another killer is on the loose. The contained arc of this story--not to mention the perfect pacing--make this novel one of the best reading experiences you are likely to have...until book 3. Yes, we are cruel for even mentioning it. And yes, we LOVE being cruel this way. Did we mention we have already read book 3 too? Neener Neener.
MR. MONSTER (the name of the book, and also the name John Cleaver gives to his inner killer) is a YA novel, but it is easily better than a majority of "older" fiction. Its accessibility makes it a read that (nearly) everyone can enjoy. However, if we could mention one thing, MR. MONSTER is quite a bit darker than the first book. There are some parts that disturbed us...even on the re-read. It should in no way keep you from reading the book, but hey, our job is to keep you informed right?
We were asked recently to give a little blurb about MR. MONSTER for potential press stuff. Here is what we said:
With Mr. Monster, Dan Wells has given us an intense, riveting, gut-wrenching dive into the dark world of the demons within us. His main character, John Wayne Cleaver, manages to thoroughly freak us out while simultaneously being one of the most sympathetic characters in the horror genre. Let your own inner monster free, and immerse yourself in this dark, page-turning adventure.
Pretty good eh? Well, now you know what we think. And we are cover-quoted on the novel, so how awesome is that?
Recommended Age: 15 and up. This is a tad higher than the rating we gave book one, but the content is a tad more intense in MR. MONSTER.
Language: A little. Nothing major.
Violence: Uh, yeah. Did we mention we were a little disturbed even though this was our second read-through?
Sex: None. This is YA Urban Fantasy/Horror, not effing Gossip Girl (not that we know what that is or anything...)