I think that means that I have a heart. Who would have guessed? — John Cleaver
SYNOPSIS: Months after John saved five girls from the second demon/ serial killer to come to Clayton County, John Wayne Cleaver is focused on finding the third one, guided only by clues he found from Agent Forman’s cellphone. With a new outlet for his obsession, the sixteen year old sociopath finds himself not so focused on death and destruction, and even finding time and effort to connect with people, most specifically Marci Jensen, the most popular girl in school. Pretty soon, a new murderer surfaces, with an MO that bears a striking resemblance to another killer — the Handyman killer. At the same time, the girls at his local high school keep committing suicide. John realizes with each death that the murderer is drawing closer to him and that in challenging the supernatural, he has put himself, and those that he holds dear in grave danger.
I have been hooked to the John Cleaver series since I first cracked the first e-book and up until the end of the trilogy (I hear that the franchise will continue in 2015, yay!), and I remain a fan of Dan Well’s excellent writing and the steady development of his characters. In the first book I am not a Serial Killer, John was at the tentative stage of dealing with his sociopathy, recognizing the red flags in himself and trying to go against his nature. In the second book Mr. Monster, he tries to wrestle with his personal demons and literally battles against evil head on. This time around, there is a different side to John that is introduced to the book. He is still a sociopath and he still isn’t normal but he seems more in touch with his humanity.
I liked the fact that Marci is introduced as his love interest in this book because Marci has a great personality (and the exact opposite of John). She’s smart, she’s kind, she doesn’t spook easily and up to a certain degree, she understands John better than anyone. I don’t think John has enjoyed anyone’s company as much as Marci and for a while, it was good to see him connect with another person, a person who had the potential to accept him entirely. While Brooke was a pretty acceptable love interest for the first two books, I thought that Marci was a better fit for John as a friend and as a girlfriend. While it was understandable for Brooke to harbor reservations about John, she was quick to drop him like a hot potato without giving him the benefit of the doubt and this, I find unforgivable. I felt like Marci had the potential to be the Shelley to John’s Marvin (Master of Murder, Christopher Pike).
Romantic connections were not the only connections that John made in this book (are we really talking about the same person?) as he had great moments with his mother that were really touching, especially towards the end. He also had insightful conversations with a priest that gave readers a better understanding of John’s convictions. Whereas before, there was great doubt about whether John would live out his most evil fantasies, this book left no doubt which side John was choosing.
Because this was supposed to be the concluding chapter, and because the last book ended so strong with John calling out the demon Nobody, Dan Wells made sure that there was plenty of stuff going on in this book. However, for the first time in three books, he was not able to distract me with his red herrings and I was able to figure out the clues and piece them together before John actually did. It did not make the book weaker than the first two but it just felt different, still in a good way. Its true there were times I wanted to smack John because he was so clearly putting himself in danger — also for his bullheadedness in not accepting his mother’s offer to work on the case together when she finally came to terms with the demon hunting thing.
All in all, I thought that I Don’t Want to Kill You was a very strong finish to the trilogy. It was bittersweet and tragic, and filled with a lot of questions as well as answers about humanity, morality and building relationships. It also gave closure to a lot of aspects of John’s inner struggle as he recognizes the person he wishes to be. It blurred the lines between right and wrong to provoke reaction and thought from the readers. It was engaging from start to finish but while it was a great ending to cap a spectacular trilogy, it left readers (like myself) wanting more of John Cleaver and his adventures. He’s not the most likely of heroes but he has managed to shoot up to my list of favorite characters in three days time. Even if he is sometimes creepy and violent.