Mr. Monster, the sequel to the supernatural YA thriller I Am Not a Serial Killer, is the second book in the John Cleaver trilogy by Dan Wells. Following closely in the footsteps of its predecessor, Mr. Monster sticks to the tone and style of the first book while also raising the stakes and continuing to flesh out the characters.
Mr. Monster continues the story of teenage sociopath John Cleaver as he begins to truly take on the responsibilities and risks of adolescence, all while combating his own sociopathic nature that he tries so hard to keep in check—a part of himself that he refers to as ‘Mr. Monster.’ When bodies once again begin to show up in his hometown of Clayton, John becomes determined to hunt the killer down, and in the process is forced into direct conflict with Mr. Monster.
The characters in Mr. Monster are significantly more developed than they were in I Am Not a Serial Killer, and this lends the book a depth that its predecessor never had. The story once again focuses on John Cleaver, and stays true to his character from the first book, but John is also forced to mature as the ongoing conflict with his own dark nature intensifies and is brought to the forefront. In addition, we are introduced to aspects of John that we never saw before, giving him the roundness that he needed to become a fully three-dimensional character.
Characters that were only seen briefly in the first book are also given time to grow into more complete people. Getting to know characters who merely populated the background of I Am Not a Serial Killer is a fascinating experience, giving the town of Clayton a vastly more human feel as well as adding a lot of depth to the book as a whole.
Wells has matured as a writer since his debut, and it clearly shows in Mr. Monster. This is most prominent in John’s narration; Wells has grown more comfortable with the character, and his voice feels significantly more natural than it did in I Am Not a Serial Killer as Wells gains a better grasp of John’s individuality. The dark humor is sharper and more effective, and John really begins to stand out as a person as he begins to take on an increasingly adult role in his life. We get to see that he has much greater range of strengths and weaknesses than those we saw in the first book.
With Mr. Monster, Wells also proves to have a very solid grasp on writing effective dialogue. The way the teenager characters speak is extraordinarily realistic, but never to the point where it becomes annoying. In addition, some of my favorite scenes in the book worked so well for me simply because the dialogue between certain characters felt so fluid and natural that it gave their interactions a genuine spark of realism that I haven’t encountered very often in literature.
A slower pace
The flaw in Mr. Monster that I found most inhibiting to the book as a whole was its slow pace. Unlike the first book, which drew most its strength from its breakneck speed, Mr. Monster moves forward almost sluggishly for most of its duration, with only the last hundred pages or so picking up on the intensity that served its predecessor so well. Wells spends a significant amount of time reiterating the events of the first book, and this quickly grows repetitive and tiresome. The story seems to be lacking in direction for most of the book, and while Wells does take this time to build tension and develop his characters, he draws it out far too long and easily could have accomplished this goal in fewer pages.
Why should you read this book?
Mr. Monster is a strong sequel to I Am Not a Serial Killer, and definitely worth reading if you enjoyed the first book. Wells has strengthened as a writer and has taken great care to flesh out his characters. While the book does suffer from a slower pace that causes it to drag in a way that I Am Not a Serial Killer never did, it’s worth reading simply to spend time with the fascinating and fully developed characters that Wells has created.