Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Book Review: I Hunt Killers

As I have been known to do, I spent this weekend reading YA lit. Oddly, it took a turn for the macabre. After reading 'Ripper' by Stefan Petrucha, I found myself opening up 'I Hunt Killers' by Barry Lyga. Yes, it was a serial killer kind of weekend. I should note I also read several non-serial killer books, but they also involved death, dying and angst. At some point, YA is going to kill me.

Moving past that point and into 'I Hunt Killers', I was really impressed. This book, at the basics of it, is a good teen thriller mystery with a suspenseful build to a satisfying conclusion. A lot of words to say, it's a good book.

Imagine your dad is the most prolific serial killer in the United States. He is, infact, considered a new brand of serial killer - a super serial killer, due to his ability to adjust and change his MO and tells.His son, Jazz, was trained from a young age in the art of being a serial killer and lives each day in fear that he will give into his training and cross a line that he does not want to cross. Now that his dad has been caught, Jazz lives with his senile grandmother, fighting against the system that wants to put him in foster care. He's lost his friends - hard to keep your popularity when your dad has killed over a hundred people. His best friend has stuck with him and his girlfriend tries to get him to look past the surface and into his own humanity.

Things are coming together for him until the body shows up. While his dad has been jailed for years, bodies are appearing in their small town, each one copying one of his dads victims. In an effort to show that he isn't a killer, Jazz has joined the police in trying to find the new serial killer. However, the more he helps, the more he tries to fight the thoughts that tell him he is more like his father than anyone would ever know.

The premise of 'I Hunt Killers' was a new twist on a old tale - a child feeling pressured to follow in the footsteps of their parent. Mix in the twist on another old tale - dead parent, parent in jail and living with a family member and you've got a very fresh story. Jazz is fighting against what he has learned from birth - he does not want to be a serial killer. He does not want to know what he knows about the dismemberment and disposal of bodies. He does not want to cause harm. He just wants to be left alone to live with his senile grandmother and hang out with his friends, helping the police when he can (and when they let him). The battle between nature and nurture is fully developed and drives the story.

Jazz is a child of his circumstances and luckily the characters around him were supportive in a realistic fashion. They understood his differences and didn't allow themselves to get either caught up in them or freaked out too much when it wasn't appropriate. However, when it was appropriate, they did note it and make reference to the fact that he was freaking them out. They keep him grounded, which is important when you're dealing with the fact that you've been groomed from birth to be a serial killer and are fighting it as hard as you can. His grandmother is not a support. The character is used to keep 'the system' in Jazzs life - a foster worker insists on visiting and is fighting to get Jazz placed in another home. This all comes together in a morbid and twisted way that I expected - but didn't expect. It also explains why Jazz didn't go into witness protection - he fought hard to be kept in his home town and family. Realizing this cleared up a lot of questions I had and made the book a little more realistic.

This book is gory, descriptive and macabre. It almost dips into the unbelievable until you as the reader remember - chances are you're not the child of the most prolific serial killer around so you would have a little trouble relating at times.  Readers who are fans of 'Dexter' or people who enjoy a gory thriller will appreciate this book. However, this book isn't just for fans of gore or thrillers. The relationships are solid and the characters well developed so as long as you don't mind a little gore in your nature vs nurture debates, you'll find something enjoyable in this book.

Link to this review:


Post a Comment