Monday, April 23, 2012

Review Time....I Hunt Killers by Barry Lyga

by Brittany Geragotelis

Review Time: I Hunt Killers by Barry Lyga

The Story:
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? 
Why It's a Must-Read: I can honestly say that there are no books out there like I Hunt Killers. I'd probably describe it as Dexter for kids, though the main character isn't the one doing the killing. The premise is so intriguing and original, and thankfully, the author doesn't hold back where it counts. Often with violence-based books for teens, people are quick to try and pretty things up, so as not to offend anyone. I was so happy to see that Barry Lyga really went for it. And because of this, I really felt like we were getting an honest look at what it was really like for this character. What it was like to grow up with a serial killer as a father. This was one of the best books I've read in a long time!
What a Character: At first, I didn't connect with the book's main character, Jazz, and wondered if I was going to end up liking the book at all since I wasn't making that initial connection. But as I got a few chapters in, I realized that that was part of what's so special about the book--and the character. Jazz is supposed to have gone through something that (thankfully) none of us ever have to go through. Because of the way he's been raised and the things his dad has taught him about mortality and the value of life, Jazz has a very unique way of looking at the world. I don't think we're supposed to identify with him in this way. But his desire to be normal and have a normal life and him second-guessing himself? Those are all things we can understand. In the end, I loved Jazz and the way his mind worked. Is he a damaged character? Absolutely. But he's taking a bad situation and at least trying to make the most of it.

A Little Something Extra:
I am obsessed with serial killers. In a completely non-creepy sort of way, though. But really, I'm fascinated by these types of people: what makes them tick, what it is that causes someone to kill, the psychology behind it, etc. I also have a theory that most serial killers come from the Northwest (hello, Ted Bundy, The I-5 Killer, The Wanted Ad Killer, The Green River Killer, etc.), or at some point have lived there. Maybe it's something about the rain--some people just can't handle it! I, myself, had been interested in writing a story similar to this (focusing on the kids of serial killers), but after reading Lyga's novel, I feel like he's already done it so well, why mess with it? I would love to hear what kind of research he did on the subject and how he feels about the topic in general. My friend is actually Lyga's publicist over at Little Brown and I'm waiting for the day she'll introduce me to him...can you imagine the dinner conversation we'd have?

Follow him on Twitter @BarryLyga and then go out and buy his book!



UK said...

This book is certainly gruesome with the murders and dismemberment, etc. While the active serial killer is bad enough, the descriptions of Billy Dent's murders are the most gory. Not to mention the very existence of this "super killer" who knew how to defy all police expectations makes me pretty terrified! Billy Dent will give you nightmares, no doubt about it! I think this is a book for your typical high school student rather than a younger reader because some of the content is pretty bloody, but more importantly, the characters and relationships are so complex, a less mature reader will get lost in the intriguing ambiguity. The writing style is highly accessible and exciting, and this would most likely be a great book even for an adult who is interested in serial killer stories and murder mysteries. But I caution, this might not be the book for the feint of heart! And, just to warn you, the very, very end of the book will leave you hanging in a way you won't believe (and that will keep you looking out your window and behind the shower curtain!).