Mr. Monster is the second book in the John Cleaver series, written by Dan Wells and published in 2010 by Tor Books. Like its predecessor, Mr. Monster is a psychological / supernatural horror, a genre I don’t have much experience with. I received book one of this series, I am not a Serial Killer, over this past Christmas and was sucked in immediately. I have had Mr. Monster and the third book, I Don’t Want to Kill You, for a little over 3 months, but Memorial Day gave me enough time to sit down and read Mr. Monster in what was, essentially, one sitting. Or laying, rather, since I was on the couch, but that sounds dirty.
Forget I said that.
I tried to keep my last review spoiler free, but in the end, it ended up being a bit too light even for my tastes. There will be some slight spoilers for I am not a Serial Killer in this review, but I don’t think they’ll be anything you won’t have figured out on your own, since this is the second book in the series. Namely, that John doesn’t die in the first book. Surprised? Yeah! Me too!
John Wayne Cleaver is a troubled high schooler. He is a sociopath that obsesses over serial killers and he works in a mortuary. Recipe for disaster? Maybe! In order to fit in, he has developed a series of rules to keep himself in check. Don’t hurt animals, don’t start fires, don’t call people “it,” you know. The basics. The problem is, during the events of I am Not a Serial Killer, John has cast away those rules in order to protect himself and his family from a demon that’s been killing people in horrible and grotesque ways. He’s emerged victorious, but that darker side of him has tasted blood.
And it wants more.
Mr. Monster picks up within a few months of the conclusion of Serial Killer and we’re treated to a very different John Cleaver. He’s much more introspective than he was previously, and it’s a good change. He’s suffering from what most people would consider PTSD, and combined with his obsessions and personality disorder, these are what drive the conflict for the entirety of the book. Being inside the head of a sociopath is a bit terrifying, and John periodically breaks up the tension with his wry, gallows humor. John is trying, though, and he’s trying hard. He has painstakingly reassembled his rules and rebuilt the walls to contain the monster inside him, all except for one: he is burning things to release the tension, to slake the thirst.
Pretty soon, bodies begin turning up again. Unlike the events of Serial Killer, these are openly taunting John into revealing his role in stopping the first killer. To top it off, tensions within John’s family are higher than ever.
Notice that I say “John this” and “John that.” This is because Mr. Monster is told in a tight first-person perspective. Dan Wells has so convincingly created the character of John Cleaver that you never once hear Mr. Wells himself in the book, only our protagonist. And that’s what is so amazingly delicious about this book. You find yourself literally inside the head of a potential serial killer. And it’s a dark, dark place. There are some very disturbing paths that his mind takes. I will admit that there were some passages that I skimmed through, getting the overall gist of the sequence without digging into the gruesome details.
And the best part? John grows as a character. I mean, really grows. He makes visible strides throughout the entirety of the book. He’s a very different person at the end than he was at the beginning, and each step is believable and plausible.
In summary, if you are a fan of dark and violent stories with a gallows humor, Mr. Monster is an amazing sequel in the John Cleaver series. I can’t wait to sit down and read the final book in the series. You know, after I have a couple weeks to let my tension levels ratchet back down a couple notches.
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- June 2015 “To Read” List