Tuesday, July 22, 2014

I Hunt Killers by Barry Lyga

Goodreads Description: "What if the world's worst serial killer...was your dad?

Jasper "Jazz" Dent is a likable teenager. A charmer, one might say.

But he's also the son of the world's most infamous serial killer, and for Dear Old Dad, Take Your Son to Work Day was year-round. Jazz has witnessed crime scenes the way cops wish they could—from the criminal's point of view.

And now bodies are piling up in Lobo's Nod.

In an effort to clear his name, Jazz joins the police in a hunt for a new serial killer. But Jazz has a secret—could he be more like his father than anyone knows?"

My Review: I wanted so badly to like this book...but I just couldn't. It wasn't horrible but it wasn't anything amazing for me. 

I like reading about killers, serial killers, and murder. I enjoy watching TV shows about killers, murder, and crimes. It's kind of a dark fascination of mine---one I'd say quite a lot of people share. I love reading books about killers and crime and when they're YA, it's even more interesting and unique. I adore the show Dexter (though let's pretend the finale never happened) and I love other crime/cop shows like Criminal Minds. So I really thought I'd like this book---it seemed like Jazz would be a mini-Dexter, likable and charming and funny...with a vicious, disturbing edge. 

But he wasn't. And that's my MAIN gripe with this book: the main character. Jazz is supposed to be good-looking, charming, funny, etc, while also struggling with inner demons and the rising urge to kill people. But that's not what Jazz was, in my opinion. He actually came off as sort of Gary Stu-ish. I know, I know---the son of a serial killer, wrestling with murderous urges, a GARY STU? But honestly, that's what he seemed like! First of all, in what world is it believable that the son of the country's most notorious serial killer would ever be this well-liked or trusted? I mean, has Barry Lyga actually seen what happens when someone is arrested for murder, serial killing, or other violent crimes? People usually condemn those closest to the criminal. I find it very hard to believe that the towns people were just mildly suspicious of Jazz but still treated him nicely. I find it even harder to believe that women would trust him, no matter how handsome he was. I'm sorry, but that doesn't seem like most women's natural reaction: to trust the son of the serial killer who was famous for hunting young women. People should have been shunning Jazz, spray painting his house when the murders started up again, throwing rocks through his window, high school jocks should have been trying to jump him... But no, everyone treats him relatively nicely and that's just not believable. 

Also, I didn't like how, just because Jazz's dad was a serial killer, he was somehow an authority on everything murder-, crime-, and crime scene-related and managed to almost always hunt down the clues before the police. That just reeks of Gary Stu-ness. It's not believable or realistic; there's really no way Jazz would understand all of the information he somehow knew in the book, even with a serial killer dad. And there's NO way a cop would ever allow Jazz to help with the investigation, especially considering Jazz was a minor as well. It's just...not realistic! At all! And it annoyed me because it seemed like Barry Lyga was trying to make Jazz this all-knowing, handsome, charming authority who was actually accepted by the police in the investigation AND the townspeople. In short, he was way too perfect and unrealistic. 

And then come his "murderous urges." Again...I just didn't find them believable. It was like he was telling us rather than showing us that he had dark urges. Like if his girlfriend was in the room, he'd be like, "I could kill her so quickly right now." Okay...that's not really convincing. And honestly, if Jazz is so smart, you'd think he'd have figured out that the fact that he is agonizing over his darker urges OBVIOUSLY means he's not evil like his dad. I mean, c'mon, it shows the guy has a clear conscience. Yeah, he was sort of empty and emotionless on the inside at times but there's a lot of people like that. It doesn't automatically mean you're going to become a serial killer...even if your dad was one. 

Anyway. The minor characters were actually a little more interesting. The chief, G. William, was actually quite interesting to read because we don't always get such developed adult characters in YA books. I tried very hard to like Connie, Jazz's girlfriend, and I was very glad that Barry Lyga chose to make her black because interracial relationships are not depicted very often in YA books---but then he chose to use some gross cliches, such as Connie having a Sassy Face stance. And there was this sentence about "You shall not touch thy black girlfriend's hair." And...really? Really? You have a black female character so you have to throw in these gross cliches? Not cool. I also couldn't really see her and Jazz's chemistry, I really couldn't. I had no idea why they liked each other. Connie seemed a little too "trying hard to be the cool, supportive, kick-butt girlfriend," to me and Jazz had these strange thoughts about him not wanting to murder Connie because she was a black girl and... Basically, the whole relationship was very weird. Billy Dent, however, was wildly interesting to read about and I wish he'd been featured in the book more because that was someone I could definitely get behind reading about.

As for the plot...I guess that was pretty interesting. I did wonder who the killer was and it did come as a surprise, so that's always good, when you're reading about a serial killer. But the mystery/murder aspect was just overshadowed by Jazz's unbelievable and unlikable character so I couldn't really enjoy this book or the mystery. Honestly, it really was like a YA spin on Dexter Morgan's tale...but Dexter still does it better. I'll stick to that charming-but-disturbing guy in the future. 

Cover: Not exactly pretty or elegant...but it's to-the-point and startlingly honest (haha) and it did make me immediately pick up the book in interest, so I think it did it's job pretty well.

Overall Grade: C-

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