Monday, August 20, 2012

Review: I Hunt Killers by Barry Lyga

Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Publication Date:  April 3rd, 2012

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?
(Courtesy of Goodreads)

This book has been on my radar for awhile.  I remember seeing it in the Hachette catalog last year and thinking, "That looks intense! I need to read that!", and then kind of forgetting about it.  When my *fabulous* book club decided to read it, I was excited because I now had no excuse not to.  Ya'll?  Can someone please explain to me why I waited?  This book is made of morbid awesomeness!  This is something I knew before I even cracked the spine...  How did I know this?  It was blurbed on the back jacket by not one of my favorite authors, but THREE!  Here...

"Something just ain't right about Barry Lyga, and that's good news for all of us.  I Hunt Killers is a dark carnival ride through twisty questions of good and evil, nature and nurture, with a DELICIOUSLY DEMENTED teen as your guide.  Buckle up and keep your hands inside the ride at all times." -Libba Bray, Printz Award-winning author of Going Bovine and the Gemma Doyle trilogy

"I adored this book.  The mystery pulls you in from the first pages, and Jazz is a more CHILLINGLY CHARMING protagonist than Dexter Morgan." -Cassandra Clare, author of the Mortal Instruments series

"Being inside the mind of Jazz is so COMPELLING AND DISTURBING that I no longer want to be left alone with Barry Lyga- but I do want to spend lots more time with Jazz." -Holly Black, author of Tithe and the Curse Workers series

Libba freaking Bray?  Cassie Clare?  Holly Black?  Yeah.  Needless to say, I was sold!  Then I opened the freaking book, and I was blown away! There is no introduction or buildup; we get our first body on page two, and they keep piling up from there.  That in and of itself makes for a great mystery, but what really draws you in is the snippets of Jazz's grotesque childhood that are triggered throughout the book.  You see, Jasper Dent, aka Jazz, was raised by his Dear Old Dad, the notorious serial killer, Billy Dent, and Billy taught him everything he knows.  Billy had grand ideas that Jazz would carry on his legacy, being an even better killer than him.  Billy didn't hold anything back, and he started Jazz's training at a VERY young age.  This book is disturbing, riveting, twisted, and downright horrifying, and I loved it.  I have to say it... Thomas Harris (The Silence of the Lambs, Hannibal, Red Dragon), move over.  There's a new kid in town, and his name is Barry Lyga!

Now, I really want to go into detail about why I loved this book so much, but there is so much potential for spoilers, so I'm not going to.  I will say that the character development was absolutely brilliant.  Being inside of Jazz's head, trying to work out the whole nature vs. nurture thing along with him, was really compelling, and I honestly still don't quite know where I stand, because HE doesn't.  Then there were the supporting characters; his best friend Howie and his Granny, who both add a bit of levity to what would otherwise be an entirely dark and morbid tale; Connie, Jazz's girlfriend, who doesn't take his crap, and tells it like it is; local Sheriff G. William Tanner, the man who brought Billy Dent down, and is now on the new serial killer's case, and the list goes on...  Barry Lyga added an element of human connection to every single character mentioned, no matter how small a role they played, and it really added to the mystery and intrigue of the story.  

I don't think I need to to tell you any more about the plot to make you understand how engaging it is.  You are in the mind of a serial killer, via the the memories and thoughts of his teenage son, who is not sure if he will become like his dad because of his experiences and training from such a young age, while a copycat is committing murders of people he knows, in his back yard.  Um yeah.  So. Moving on.  Pacing... Everyone in my book club said the same thing...  They could NOT put this book down.  It is not at all predictable, and you will be blown away in the end.  I promise.  This book is so well written, so twisty and surprising, with little barbs thrown in here and there that make you say, "What?!?!", so often, that you happily forgo sleep just to find out what happens in the end.  It is one of the most engaging and astonishing books I've read. Finally, I have to comment on the cover.  The jacket is okay for me, but the actual cover is brilliant.  Don't buy the eBook of this one.  Pay the extra couple of bucks for the hardcover.  It is worth it!

Overall, I have to say that this is the best YA Psychological Thriller I have EVER read.  In fact, I'm going to venture and say that it is the best one I've read, YA or Adult.   If you like books like this, RUN out and buy it.  You won't regret it!  I can't wait for the second book in this series, Game (releases April 23, 2013),because while I Hunt Killers does wrap up nicely, there are still some seriously nagging questions in my mind.   I can promise you this... I will not be waiting for book club to read book two!  It will be read on release day, or sooner, if I can get my grubby paws on an advance copy. 

My Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★  

Grade Level Recommendation:  This is not, I repeat, NOT a YA book that should be read by upper-level reading elementary or middle school age students.  This book is loaded with graphic violence, disturbing images, and horrifying acts of torture inflicted on people and animals.  If you wouldn't let your child read or watch The Silence of the Lambs, don't let him read this book.  I almost question this book's YA classification.  I would have classed it a an Adult novel, with crossover appeal for OLDER teens, like The Lovely Bones.  I think this is most appropriate for TEENS, ages 15 and older (grades 10 and up).


  1. AWESOME review! I can just feel the enthusiasm. ;) I too LOVED this sucker and hold it in high regard with other great YA psychological wins. It truly sucked you in, kinda like driving by a car accident and not being able to turn away. It was fantastic!

  2. I don't really thing it's YA, either. If I had a kid, there's no way I'd let them read it! Maybe it could have fallen into that like, pseudo-category of "new adult," if there was such a thing. But I'm glad you liked it all the same! :)

  3. I have many teens who are looking for something just like this. The mystery/serial killer aspects are lacking in YA -- this one will help fill the gap. Loved it. Great review!

  4. I have been hearing so many great things about this book but your review has made mr really excited to get my hands on it. hopefully my library has a copy.


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