I was afraid to read this book after seeing some reviews that mentioned animal torture, so I wrote the author and asked if it was true and should I skip the book. He was wonderfully nice and wrote me back, saying (edited to remove specific spoilers): "There is a scene that takes place about halfway through the book, and the driving force of the second half is, in many ways, his journey to redeem himself for that action. So it's never presented as a good thing, and there's no drawn-out grisly details, but it does happen."
The scene he refers to is John's fault, and in the context of the book it becomes incredibly important to the development of his character. I am not very squeamish but listening to the audiobook can be very intense, especially if the narrator is good like this one is. With this in mind when the scene came up it was easy to identify, and though his actions were horrible it was not the kind of horrible that makes me unable to continue the book. Instead for me it was the kind of horrible that makes you yell at the character for being weak, and keep reading to see how he redeems himself. Honestly his continuous inner monologue, throughout all the books, of the evil and very specific things he wants to do to other people I find much more disturbing and off putting (though understandably authentic) than this character-defining scene was.
So in summary, for anyone who was ok with the level of disturbing in the first book (these books aren't for the squeamish from the start) will probably be ok with the level of disturbing in this book. If you're especially sensitive to animals being hurt in any way, Dan said that it's possible to skip this book and that "...you could probably read the rest of the series and be fine. No animals are harmed in any of the other books."
After reading the series I agree, it could be skipped and the rest are understandable, Dan does a good job explaining the key world and plot points. A reader doing this would miss some truly amazing character development and twists though, so my suggestion is for Audible readers to take advantage of their return policy if the book becomes so distasteful you don't want to continue, but if you liked the first book you'll probably like this one even more. I definitely did.
Strong second step in John Cleaver's story his deepening battle with his serial killer inclinations was handled very well. Once again the demon was nuanced and real. The relationship between John and Brooke was handled very well. It made me really love her and fear for her.
The narrator was top notch. He was totally fitting as John's voice, and he was able to give each of the wide range of characters their own feel. I couldn't have been happier.
Audible is how I read.
The voice with which the author writes John Cleaver, is the best thing about this. The mystery of the story drew me to the end and straight into the sequels.
I might compare this to the "Odd Thomas" by Dean Koontz because the voice is similar and they both deal with the supernatural in a slightly disturbing way.
My favorite scene was the last part of the book.
Again the last scene moved me. Out of all 4 books in this series, the last scene was one of the greatest endings I have heard.
I much prefer this narrator to the narrator of the first Cleaver book. This one sounds younger, much more like how I imagine a 15/16 year old would sound, and is more expressive. The other narrators deliver feels really flat and emotionless and while John is supposed to be a sociopath, that doesn't mean he's completely devoid of feelings or emotion.
There is a very intense moment in this book that I have a very hard time listening to every time I've listened to it. That's the only thing I'd "warn" people about. Otherwise it's a very good, weirdly enjoyable story about a very messed up kid.
Finally, after the horrible reader for the _I Am Not a Serial Killer_, the second in the trilogy has a narrator worthy of the author and his work.
Dan Wells writes compellingly of a young sociopath, battling his own inner monster while also fighting supernatural horrors, one in the first book, and now another in the second.
An amazing read with a poignant and touching performance.
The tales of John Wayne Cleaver are easily among those I'll return to when I'm tired and stressed and want to reread, not to read something new.
I have read the first two books in the John Cleaver series and plan on getting the third. As a quick warning, I found this book to be much darker than the first book. And that is what makes this book difficult to recommend. I enjoyed it, but parts of it were difficult to get through.
I also wonder who the target audience for this series is. On its surface it appears to be a young adult series. It features a teenage protagonist dealing with the struggles of feeling cut off from his peers in his small town environment.
But the protagonist also deals with some very dark thoughts. He wrestles with his sexuality in the context of sociopathy and pyromania. This book also has extended scenes of torture and abuse that work in the context of the story and walk the line of becoming graphic and over the top.
Overall, this is an interesting series which raises mixed emotions in me.