by Barry Lyga
Little, Brown and Company, April 3 2012
young adult psychological thriller
review copy received from publisher (thank you!)
Jasper Francis Dent’s father is a serial killer. And sure, Dear Old Dad might be locked up in jail, but the body count in little town Lobo’s Nod is rising again. Guess who’s going to get the blame? Jasper, of course. He's even got the prerequisite three names to be a serial killer. And Jazz knows it’s coming. It’s why he’s joining the hunt for the new serial killer. But what isn’t clear is whether he’s looking to prove to others that he isn’t a killer… or whether he’s looking to prove it to himself.The cover:
That title font. *shudders* Seriously, the scratchy aspect to it is such a cliché. I do like the author name font, but the bright red splotches are a weeny bit overkill, especially with such an expressive b&w image in the background. But wow, when you take off the jacket, the book’s packaging is… gruesome. :P
I took a leap of faith when I requested this book. Serial killers and police crimes—heck, psychological thrillers in general—aren’t my usual fare when it comes to YA. (Then again, it’s pretty awesome that there is such thing in young adult now.) For me, I Hunt Killers safely straddled the line between scared-out-of-my-pants and only-mildly-intimidating.
From all the blurbs on the back (Libba Bray, Cassandra Clare *rolls eyes*, Holly Black), I was expecting our protagonist to be more likeable. That being said, Jazz isn’t outright unlikeable—it's his constant back-and-forth of “Am I a good person? Or am I really evil?” that wears on you. I understand it’s an essential part of his development, but it’s repetitive. That’s all.
Best friend Howie provides excellent comedic relief. His offhand remarks that are only sometimes meant to be funny are genuine, and Jazz has an excellent girlfriend in Connie, I can tell you that, though neither go through much change. The stand-out supporting character is Billy Dent, whose presence is felt, although absent for four-fifths of the book, through the insinuating flashbacks Jazz experiences. Meeting him in real life only solidifies the mix of fascination and repulsion he gives off.
The mystery takes a while to get off the ground, as Barry Lyga takes his time to lay the groundwork for Jazz’s mental struggles, while I couldn’t help rolling my eyes at the few chapters from the POV of the killer. But as with all (good) mysteries, a deliciously intense ending brings out the blood and gore—at least, all the blood and gore that hadn’t already been used in several graphic, realistic scenes previously.
Lyga ties it up loosely with a confirmation of Jazz’s growth and an opening for either a sequel or the reader’s imagination to move forward. Although it won’t be my imagination. I’ve had my fill of killing, thanks. :P
Rating: 3.6 out of 5