Book Reviews

[review] I Hunt Killers – Barry Lyga

Release Date: April 3, 2012
Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Age Group: Young Adult
Pages: 368
Format: Hardcover
Source: Finished copy received from publisher

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?

Tell Me More: When discussing books in literature classes or book clubs, it’s often a given that the words “human experience” will be brought up once or–let’s be realistic–a dozen times at least. The people who insist that stories are just reflections of human experience are correct. We read stories to see how other people react to situations we can only imagine, but which have a basis in our own reality. It’s fun to imagine oneself in the middle of the barricades in Les Miserables, but given the chance to actually do it, not many people would volunteer. But what happens when a reader is asked to imagine an absence of human experience, a lack of that unnameable quality that separates us from animals?

Murder is a fascinating subject for many people, I imagine, because it sits in that realm of possibility which we have been conditioned never to touch. Sentences like “I’m going to kill him” have entered the common lexicon because we consider it a joke, just a cathartic turn of phrase. To Jazz, death has always, always been something tangible. Lyga’s previous work seems like the tip of the iceberg now, after reading I Hunt Killers–he burrows deep into the psyche of not just one, but two sociopaths and draws out the shadows for readers’ judgment. Where Lobo’s Nod is concerned with the uncanny similarities between Jazz and his imprisoned father, Lyga insists that his readers take no piece of information for granted and gives all his characters credit for their actions.  That kind of approach is so important to a story like this, because it could easily devolve into just another crime thriller on the shelf.

Jazz is forced to come to terms with the idea that his father may have forced the experience of murder onto him as a child, and the thought of the possible victim is just one of the lashings he has to take in the course of the story. In many ways, I Hunt Killers is a story of uncertainty and our reactions to that confusion. Some people have midlife crises. Billy Dent, Jazz’s father and an infamous murderer, speaks of “not knowing” if people are truly alive until he’s killed them, that the blood flowing onto his hands and the sigh of their last breath are the proof of their life. When faced with a serial killer who is copying his father’s crimes, Jazz himself crashes into a mountain of doubt and distrust in his own ability to see people as living, unique beings. It is a realistic and painful journey to witness from page one to 368, and one that needed a writer brave enough to slash away at bad metaphors and easy cliches. Barry Lyga was the perfect writer for this story, because he made it more than just a story about murder. He reminds his readers that humanity is something we choose first, and not something that chooses us, no matter whom we were born to or how we grew up.

The Final Say: A story this tough will find a true home with readers who need something to hold on to, and readers who know how important it is to never take our lives for granted.

Be sure to visit Barry Lyga at his website and follow him on Twitter @barrylyga.

You can check out I Hunt Killers on Goodreads and order it from The Book Depository.


3 replies »

  1. This sounds so amazing. And I remember seeing one of your tweets saying not to read this at night. I love creepy books, and I so badly want to read this one now. I really love how you say that this is “for readers who know how important it is to never take our lives for granted.” Awesome review Angel!

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