To kill or not to kill? – that sometimes is the question. Psychological fiction has always fascinated me. Add the hormones, rage, and general confusion that adolescence brings – well this is definitely not a “chicken soup for the soul” kind of reading expereince.
Drop in a good mystery and you have me hooked. Here are some novels (and non-fiction) that show examples of this.
I Hunt Killers (M) by Barry Lyga. What happens if your father was a really bad person? Psychologists have debated for eons the role of nature vs. nurture. Even the bible blames Adam and Eve for the sins of Cain. The exploration of this topic can be quite broad and very interesting. Especially if it involves twins who have been separated at birth… I Hunt Killers is one of those books that when I finished the last page I wanted more. I had to know what happens next to Jazz and his friends.
Thankfully Lyga continues the character’s stories in The Game (M). Jasper Dent (Jazz to his friends) is the son of the world’s most infamous serial killer. Dear Old Dad had killed 123 or 124 people, depending on who is counting. Take your kid to work day was year round; in fact, Billy Dent was grooming his son to follow in his footsteps. Jazz witnessed or heard about crimes that law enforcers wished they could, all from the killer’s point of view. When bodies start to pile up around Jazz’s sleepy little town of Lobo’s Nod, Jazz desperately wants to help solve the crime so that fingers don’t start pointing towards him. Especially since the bodies have been killed like his father’s victim’s! The psychological struggle of Jazz is wonderfully written and you come to genuinely care about him. He worries about who he is and who he might become. I agree with one review I read – the book was Creepalious!
I Am Not a Serial Killer (M) by Dan Wells present another teenager with psychological problems. John Wayne Cleaver is dangerous and he knows it! He has lived his life trying very hard not to live up to his potential. The 15 year old is a diagnosed sociopath who lives above a morgue owned by his mother. He is also obsessed with serial killers. He is haunted by constant homicidal urges and is afraid he is fated to become a killer. He has created a strict series of checks and balances of rules to keep his violent impulses in check. When a serial killer comes to town John struggles on whether being close to a killer will bring out the beast within.
To go from fiction to fact there is the graphic novel My Friend Dahmer (M) by Derf Backderf. It is the winner of the 2012 Alex Award and the 2012 Great Graphic Novels. Written by a high school classmate of serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer, this is a unique and interesting personal insight into the trouble teen who would end up shocking the world with his crimes.
What would you say to a killer? The Serial Killer Whisper (M) by Pete Earley presents 15 year old Tony Ciaglia’s answer to that question. Everything in this book is real – the victims, the killers and the consequences. Tony Ciaglia suffered a traumatic brain injury at summer camp which resulted in the dramatic change of his personality. In addition to being paralyzed on his right side, the brain damage required him to relearn how to walk, talk, eat and forced him to take countless pills to control his emotions. Shunned by his friends, he became obsessed with serial killers, the people he now felt emotionally connected to. On a whim he started to write to these killers and became of friend, confidant and a “best friend”. Unable to feel disgust at the revolting stories, Tony began to fear that he would turn into a killer himself. In time Tony turned this feeling around and learned to use his gift to assist law enforcement officers to solve crimes his connections uncovered. This book is not for everyone because it is the unedited, unfiltered look into the brains of some really horrible people. So this is one book that should have a “reader beware” warning attached to it.