I Hunt KillersFeaturedHot
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?
This is a story starter that I would love to share with my middle school students as an example of a true hook. That's about the only thing in Barry Lyga's I Hunt Killers that I could share. Still, for mature teens and YA-loving adults, the novel is engrossing and highly recommended.
Jazz's father is the most notorious serial killer in history, and despite his being jailed for life, he looms large in Jazz's mind and in the memory of his community. When a copycat killer begins striking in Jazz's hometown, he needs to use the 'training' his father gave him to prevent the next murder. With his incredible ability to think like a serial killer, Jazz has to wonder if he didn't inherit more than he wanted from Dear Old Dad.
Lyga doesn't spare the reader any gruesomeness with his grisly descriptions of Billy Dent's crimes. I can see parents objecting, but know that it isn't very different from the "Saw" movies or many other types of media that fascinate teenagers. In fact, I read that I Hunt Killers is going to be made into a television show for ABC Family, with the main character as the daughter of a serial killer. I have no idea how they will be able to translate this novel for that channel, but would be interested in checking it out. Unfortunately, I'm sure the television show will leave out some of the more interesting aspects of the novel, such as Jazz's relationship with his African American girlfriend, Connie. Jazz admits that one of the reasons he was first attracted to Connie was because his father never had any African American victims, so maybe he is being "safe" by having this relationship. Details like these made I Hunt Killers more than a simple slasher or mystery novel.
The sequel, Game, will be released in just a few days. A benefit to being behind in my reading: I only have to wait three days to pick up where the story left off.
Fully realized characters
But worse than all of that are the terrible things he sees while he's sleeping. Things he thinks really happened. Things he's scared his father made him do.
Being Billy Dent's son means Jazz was groomed from infancy to be the world's most triumphant sociophathic serial killer ever. But Jazz doesn't want to be his father, even as he fears that's exactly who he's destined to become. So when bodies start piling up in Lobo's Nod again, Jazz throws everything he knows about killers and crimes into helping the police catch a killer who is closer to Jazz than he could ever have imagined.
This book is brilliant. I don't say that lightly. It's Dexter for YA: compelling, wise, disturbing, funny, insightful, beautiful, and horrific. All in one perfectly executed package. I found myself torn between tearing through the pages to see what would happen next and forcing myself to slow down so I could savor every perfectly crafted word.
Jazz is one heck of a hero. Tortured. Smart. REALLY smart. Scary, but redeemable. Honest in a raw, aching sort of way. The other characters are also fully realized and each add something indispensable to the story. In fact, while Jazz is a reliable narrator for the crimes and the steps it takes to catch a serial killer, he's an unreliable narrator when it comes to accurately seeing himself. He's too damaged, and too convinced that because he was raised to be a monster, he is one despite his best efforts. It's in his relationships with the other characters that the reader gains the true picture of who Jazz is.
We watch him take care of his grandma even though she throws hate his way more often than not. We see his relationship with his best friend (who is comedic relief and big-hearted foolish bravery all rolled into one), and it humanizes Jazz for us. And his relationship with his girlfriend Connie is one of the best things he has in his life. Eventually her certainty that he is redeemable starts to sink into his head even as it's already written in the reader's heart.
This is heart-pounding, jaw-dropping, spine-tingling fun--a rolicking ride through the dark underbelly of the human spirit and an achingly beautiful look at what the heart can endure and what it takes to triumph over oneself. It isn't a book for younger readers or readers who may be squeamish, but honestly, this is one of the best books I've ever read. I highly recommend it.
Jasper Dent's father is behind bars; he's a serial killer who has murdered over a hundred people. He raised Jasper while he killed, often teaching Jasper about how to prevent getting caught and how to dispose of dead bodies. Jasper now lives with his grandmother, has a best friend and a girlfriend, and he still deals with the aftermath of his father's capture and conviction.
When people start turning up dead, Jasper knows that the town has yet another serial killer on their hands. Besides trying to convince the police that he knows what he's talking about, Jasper has to deal with his fear that he is truly like his father; a cold-hearted, sadistic killer. While Jasper investigates the murders with the hope of using his knowledge to catch the killer, he struggles with the fear that people will believe that he is behind it all. But things are complicated when you worry that you might be an evil sociopath, like your own father.
This was such an awesome book! It was dark, it was disturbing, and I couldn't put it down. I read it extremely quickly, I was sucked in from the start. My advice concerning this book is to start reading it when you have a lot of free time on your hands. You won't want to leave it until you've flipped the last page.
One thing that I loved about this book was how dark and disturbing it was. I often read romances, which tend to be sweeter, less serious or calmer reads. But this book....it was dead serious. I want to mention that there were rather detailed descriptions of assault and murder, so that more sensitive readers can make an informed decision on whether or not this book is for them. Personally, I loved that aspect of the book, because it just felt so creepy. I rarely find books that have genuinely disturbing content, but this one was dark enough that it satisfied my craving for something more gruesome. That's not to say that the crimes were extremely detailed, but they were explained in enough detail that they brought up the creep and thrill factor quite a bit.
Jasper's struggle was very intense and it kept me reading just as the murders did. Reading about his fears that he might be a sociopath, that he might be fated to become a murderer like his father, it was a well-written depiction of this struggle and I found it very believable. Despite Jasper's fears and some of his darker thoughts, I found him a very likeable character. He seemed like a genuinely good guy, wanting to save peoples' lives and fighting the things that his father told him to believe. While this is an extreme example, I think that this is reminiscent of the issues that many face concerning breaking out of their shell and questioning the things that their parents or guardians told them as children. This sense of connection between Jasper's issues and smaller, real-life issues made Jasper even more likeable, and I absolutely rooted for him to stop the killer and find peace from the start.
Jasper's friend and girlfriend are great characters as well, his friend being somewhat weak and comical, his girlfriend strong, loyal and determined. As for Billy Dent, Jasper's psychopathic father, he was written very well, in a way that I could easily imagine what kind of atmosphere might be experienced in his presence. He was pure evil. I feel like there are such few characters that are so evil, but Billy Dent really really was, undoubtedly, a monster. Because he was such a well-written villain, I loved reading about him, despite his crimes. He was especially creepy because, unlike paranormal monsters and villains, there really are people like him out in the world. I think that's what made this book all the more striking.
I wish I'd picked this novel up sooner. I have to add the sequel to my wishlist!
I recommend this to mature YA readers. If you like creepy contemporary thrillers, and the content mentioned in this review wouldn't bother you, this is a must-read.
Jasper was a great main character
Leaves you wanting the next book
Jasper Dent is an extremely complex and sympathetic character. He’s likeable and in many ways your average teenage boy – aside from his sociopathic tendencies and the fear that he may not be able to stop himself from harming others. At the heart of this fear is the nature vs. nurture debate, which has always intrigued me: can an innate sense of morality overcome an unconventional (read: truly disturbing) upbringing? Or are violent compulsions primarily a product of the environment? These questions are constantly running through Jazz’s mind, to the point where he deliberately chooses a girlfriend who doesn’t fit his father’s typical victim profile. Jazz’s narration is peppered with gallows humour that made me laugh despite the heavy subject matter.
I loved these bits of humour that were added to the story – especially the remarks that came from Jazz’s best friend, Howie. Howie is supportive and willing to put himself into all kinds of danger for Jazz. His unconditional love for his best friend was touching and served to humanize Jazz even more, though it also made the serious scenes feel more dramatic and disturbing.
Despite the likeable characters and slightly humourous tone, I Hunt Killers is certainly not for the faint of heart. The descriptions of the murders are graphic, and the psychological aspects are just as dark and disturbing. For the right audience, though, this will provide an unforgettable reading experience.
So, based on the reviews I’ve read, I was expecting a really gory manhunt type book. And I guess that’s where perspective comes into play, because a), there is no dramatic manhunt besides “oh hey, there’s a serial killer in town—I should do something about that” and b), I Hunt Killers isn’t actually very gory. Or, it wasn’t for me. And maybe that’s because I read a lot of adult fiction along with my YA, so my gore-meter is skewed upwards? Anyhoo. Neither of those are bad things that impacted my overall enjoyment, so they’re just observations.
I do think that the biggest thing I Hunt Killers has going for it is sheer unputdownableness. I started reading this book in a bad mood. I knew I shouldn’t be reading because this mood was going to ruin anything I read, but I was on a deadline so I kept on. The next thing I knew, I was on page 200, and poof, bad mood gone. This is an absolutely absorbing book that seriously grabs you and does not let go. Plus, Lyga gets bonus points for giving me exactly what I needed at that moment, which doesn’t happen too often.
The strange thing about this book is that I knew who the serial killer was as soon as he showed up. The very first sentence out of this character’s mouth is a complete tip-off. Maybe this means I read too many Nancy Drew books as a kid. Anyway, the fact that I completely knew who the killer was didn’t bother me as much as I most likely would have in any other circumstance. Actually, it added a delicious bit of dramatic irony to the entire novel, and I kind of liked yelling at Jazz to be a bit more observant, darn you.
Speaking of Jazz…he’s messed up. Basically he spent his childhood being trained by his serial killer father to be a serial killer once he grew up. And now that his dad’s in jail, Jazz is trying to convince everyone (but especially himself), that he’s not like his father. He definitely has that “tortured hero with strong sense of morality” thing going on, which I tend to go for a lot of the time in my books. I found it a bit less charming in Jazz for some reason, though I still think he’s a really strong character who I enjoyed. It might have been nice if his support system (AKA, two best friends) were as well-rounded as Jazz, since they could have complimented his personality more than just as a) comic relief and b) someone to bare his soul to. But in the end, Jazz is still a pretty cool guy.
One thing I Hunt Killers might be lacking is staying power. I’m not sure it impacted me in the way I want my books to. This book is really, really entertaining, but is it something I’ll remember down the road? I’m not sure. Maybe it will, though, and that would be awesome.
However, I most definitely and certainly recommend this book. I discussed that my meter for determining squick factor is skewed, so I can’t say if it’s the kind of book that would bother different people or not. But serial killers are an interesting topic for sure, Barry Lyga’s prose is absolutely addicting, and I found myself having a lot of fun while reading this book.
Let's talk about that boy. Jazz. I truly think it is his character that brings this story to life. Raised by a monster, desensitized to the pain of others, Jazz has a point of view that is quite interesting. His life has been filled with a battle between what he knows he should feel, and what he actually does feel. Always battling the darkness inside himself. Is he truly a copy of his father like everyone else believes? Or is there something within Jazz that keeps him from turning into that stigma? This question drives Jazz in I Hunt Killers. Motivates him to solve the murders, and keep the part of himself that still sees the light.
Lucky for Jazz, Barry Lyga gives him some allies in his quest for some type of normalcy. The other characters in this book may be minor ones, but they truly do just as much to bring the book to life as Jazz himself does. Howie was by far my favorite. I won't spoil anything for you, in case you haven't had the pleasure of devouring this book, but trust me he's amazing. I loved the way that he and Jazz are so completely different from one another. One strong, but afraid of his inner demons. The other weak on the outside, but with a strength all his own on the inside. It is these characters that keep Jazz sane, and move the story along.
I will warn you to make sure you have a strong stomach if you are going to take a shot at this amazing story. It is definitely a serial killer novel at its core, and there are some shocking pieces that might make you cringe. Heck, I don't think you'd be human if at least a bit of this story didn't affect you. Still, it's so compulsively readable. Anything you ever wanted to know about the mind of a serial murderer, about the motivations they feel, or even about the crime scenes they leave behind, it's here.
What can I say? I Hunt Killers is just stunning. Gorgeously morbid, and so unique. There is absolutely nothing that I did not love about this book! Barry Lyga is a genius and I simply cannot wait for more! The ending tore me in half with wanting. This is going to be a series that I will follow with a fan girl intensity. You can be sure of that.
If we’re going to be honest, I feel kind of weird saying it’s good. It was so creepy being inside Jazz’s head since he wasn’t just some innocent little bystander who never knew the horrors of his serial killer father. In fact, he knew almost every detail of his father’s kills and was being groomed to take his father’s place someday. I Hunt Killers is the kind of “good” that’ll have you questioning everything you know and occasionally make you want to lose your lunch. Not things I usually associate with good books, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be its own brand of good.
Being in Jazz’s head felt like an intrusion. Seeing the way he struggled with his own thoughts and feelings was almost too much sometimes. I felt simultaneously creeped out and sorry for him. It was weird reading about a character I had basically nothing in common with, but at the same time it was good. I wasn’t really trying to connect with him but I could still see things (to a degree) from his point of view.
I love me a good mystery and it doesn’t really get much mystery-er (sure, that can be a word) than I Hunt Killers. Not only were we trying to figure out who the killer could be along with Jazz, but the reader is also left wondering what’s locked away up in Jazz’s head the entire time.
The Nutshell: If you’re jonesing for a good mystery that’s anything but ordinary then I Hunt Killers is your book. If you’re squeamish and hate gore, though, you’re probably going to want to stay away. Lyga isn’t afraid to delve into the deep, heavy stuff about who we are on the inside and whether or not it can be changed and that just makes this read all the more unique.
Barry Lyga, I wonder if you're on any government watch lists for your very, creative ways of both creating and disposing of corpses. I Hunt Killers is completely disturbing and terrifying.
It's intriguing to read from a point of view that isn't one-hundred percent heroic. In many stories, the protagonist is the target of the antagonist who wishes his/her's demise, but in this case the antagonist believes himself to be on Jazz's side. He thinks that he'll eventually turn to the dark side, gosh, almost everyone in the story's just waiting for the other shoe to drop. that might be why I took so long reading this; I didn't want Jazz to turn into a bad guy.
There was plenty of conflict in the story: the people in Jazz's town waiting for him to become the serial killer his father was, the father of one of Billy Dent's victims wanting the closure Jazz could not give, another serial killer on the loose, and Jazz's battle for his own self and sanity in his mind. It seemed all very real, and incredibly painful for just one teenage boy to bear.
The plot seemed really, really cool, although I shouldn't say so because of the dying people. The way the Impressionist made the killings was absolute genius in a psychotic way. It is completely demented, and you can't help but be fascinated by Jazz's own insight of a killer's psyche and wonder what truly makes a killer who he is. Seeing the man posed as X turn out to be the Impressionist was like "Oh shite, I did not see that coming." I was completely blindsided. X blended into the background spectacularly. I thought Barry Lyga put him into the story only as another external conflict against Jazz but it was quite hard to imagine X as the man recreating the calculated kills of the Artist. You can't help but want to reach out to Jazz, just to give him a hand and be afraid that he'd eventually lose control. His lack of memories of his mother and the nightmares of cutting someone stuck out and emphasized that no matter how hard he tried to be good, even if he succeeded, he'd still have that dark bit of himself inside.
I Hunt Killers completely screwed my mind over, and I'd love to shove it into everyone's faces screaming, "READ IT! IT IS INGENIOUS!" but I do know that it has some quite gruesome details in it. I'd recommend it to everyone who doesn't mind gory details in their books.