Author: Barry Lyga [Website|Twitter]
Standing: Stand alone novel.
Genre: Young Adult, Thriller
Published: April 3rd, 2012 by Little Brown Books for Young Readers
Format: Hardcover; 368 pages
Source: ARC copy provided as part of a tour hosted by The Midnight Garden (thank you!).
Jazz was afraid of two things in the world, and two things only. One of them was that people thought that his upbringing meant that he was cursed by nature, nurture, and predestination to be a serial killer like his father.As long as he can remember, Jazz’s dad has been killing people. With a body count of 123 (124?), Billy Dent has become the world’s most notorious serial killer. A new brand of sociopath. And he spent years grooming Jazz to take up his throne when he was gone. Now, four years after Billy was finally caught and put away, Jazz struggles to live life as a normal teen. Lies and manipulation come as easy to him as breathing, and Jazz’s biggest fear is that he’s more like his dad than anyone knows. When a body shows up in a field outside Lobo’s Nod, Jazz knows instantly what the cops don’t want to believe--that another serial killer is on the loose. Jazz is certain he’s right, and that he can help the cops to catch their man. After all, he’s the only one of them who really knows how to think like a serial killer.
The second thing...was that they were right.
When I first heard of I Hunt Killers, it was self-described as “Dexter meets Silence of the Lambs for teens”. I always hate these types of descriptions which makes my mind just think things like ‘Serial killers...you know, for kids!”
But at the same time, it certainly got my attention. And while I’d say I Hunt Killers is perfect for any fan of thrillers, particularly of the serial killer variety, I’ll also say that it was more original than I expected. Now, while I’ve watched a fair amount of these types of movies, the only other book I’ve read in this vein is Darkly Dreaming Dexter. I liked Darkly Dreaming Dexter, but it was honestly pretty boring after having already watched the Showtime adaptation. I am happy to report that I Hunt Killers wasn’t about a serial-killer-killing serial killer (Dexter was awesome, but it’s been done), it was its own uniquely nauseating story of the child of a serial killer grappling with his own nature and frighteningly adept understanding of a sociopathic killer mentality.
Jazz is one of the most interesting characters I’ve ever seen behind. He’s struggling with trying to be a normal teen, while completely aware that he is anything but. He’s continually reminding himself that people are real, that people matter, while fighting the fact that he has an absence of feelings for other human beings he can only explain away by admitting to himself that he’s a sociopath. Jazz wants so badly to be not be like his father, that the desire is probably the only thing that stands between them. He has so many of his father’s characteristics. He’s handsome and charming, he knows how to work people, he’s incredibly intelligent, but he also has a fascination with the ease with which he could destroy people. Jazz is acutely aware of how close he is to slipping, how sometimes he thinks he might want to hurt people.
I really wasn’t sure what we’re supposed to think of Jazz’s mental state, as he clearly didn’t know what he thought himself. He’s so convinced he’s a sociopath--he has memories he can’t breach where he worries he’s done terrible things. Honestly, I was pretty convinced he was a sociopath as well. After all, not all sociopaths kill people, some of them are just business CEOs. Jazz’s thought process was frightening to behold, and I loved it.
The story of I Hunt Killers never let up. It starts with a dead body found naked in a field, and there is never a dull moment. Jazz’s relationships with his friend, girlfriend, grandmother, and the cops have surprising depth and believability. For me, what made I Hunt Killers unique as a thriller was that it was character driven. Most often, I find that these types of books are so on the edge and plot driven, that the characters are only there to move things along. Not so with I Hunt Killers. It was entirely character driven, while simultaneously having a fast-paced and completely engrossing plot.
Certainly one of my favorite reads this year, I Hunt Killers was a fantastic reminder that our decisions matter--they make us who we are more than our genetics and more than our upbringing. Barry Lyga captures a mentality so vastly different from the average person’s that it is captivating, and frightening; like a train wreck, impossible to look away.
Likelihood that I'll be back for more: Oh goodness yes! I’ve had some of Barry Lyga’s other books on my TBR already (like Mangaman), and I certainly plan to get to them.
Recommended for: Anyone who likes thrillers. Because this one is YA, it’s less gruesome than an adult novel might be, though it is gruesome in parts. I dug it, but many may not. You can read the first 10 chapters of I Hunt Killers for free on Kindleand Nook. And check out the awesome trailer here:
Real life repercussions of reading this book: I totally learned a better way to stop a nosebleed! I used to get completely scary nosebleeds, but I Hunt Killers taught me that if you put pressure on the vein above your gums by shoving tissue under your upper lip it’ll help stem the flow. Good to know even if I don’t get the totally freaky ones anymore.
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