As a cross between TV shows Six Feet Under and [b:Dexter|17231|Darkly Dreaming Dexter (Dexter, #1)|Jeff Lindsay|http://d.gr-assets.com/books/1334404607s/17231.jpg|2113743] 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[b:I Am Not a Serial Killer|5981280|I Am Not A Serial Killer (John Cleaver #1)|Dan Wells|http://d.gr-assets.com/books/1348925536s/5981280.jpg|6154629] 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. The demon. 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 hideous beast. 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! [b:Mr. Monster|7167271|Mr. Monster (John Cleaver, #2)|Dan Wells|http://d.gr-assets.com/books/1291075456s/7167271.jpg|7542680] is out. Is it cold in here?