I Hunt Killers
By Barry Lyga
Published by Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Gift from a friend (Thanks Andi!)
I have so many thoughts on this book that, even a couple months after I read it and cogitated on it, I still don’t quite know what to say. It is a conundrum.
Firstly, let me tell you what the book is about, if you haven’t heard of it already.
Since I can’t seem to think of a way to describe it without giving too much away, here is the description from the book:
It was a beautiful day. It was a beautiful field.
Except for the body.
Jazz is a likable teenager. A charmer, some 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 criminals’ point of view.
And now, even though Dad has been in jail for years, bodies are piling up in the sleepy town of Lobo’s Nod. Again.
In an effort to prove murder doesn’t run in the family, Jazz joins the police in the hunt for this new serial killer. But Jazz has a secret–could he be more like his father than anyone knows?
From acclaimed author Barry Lyga comes a riveting thriller about a teenager trying to control his own destiny in the face of overwhelming odds.
Goodness me, but I am unforgivably conflicted over this book. Or was. I had a hard time coming to terms with my feelings about this story. I admit to having that tendency (one I’m working on, believe me) of seeing someone as just plain evil, these people who just love to kill people, and not seeing them as having a mental illness. This is unforgiveable of me, and like I said, something I’m working on. The dichotomy of Jazz and his father actually perfectly mirrors this. Jazz’s father just seems to glorify in his evilness -he loves it – while Jazz struggles with the mental illness of this compulsion to kill. Billy Dent loves his “profession.” Jazz wants to do everything he can NOT to end up like Dear Old Dad. And, while not many people have to fight a compulsion to kill exactly, they do have other compulsions to fight; lying, cheating, stealing, eating, greediness, laziness, etc., etc. So I can see where readers could identify with Jazz – if they can get over the distaste of a character who daydreams about knives, blood, and what it would be like to marry the two. I was able to get over that distaste simply because Jazz is such a great character. Brilliant, charming, and more than a little troubled; Jazz is the ultimate conflicted, unreliable character. We all have a capacity for violence, for temptation, for desire, for love, for hate, and we all have the capacity to fight it…or not. It’s our choices that make us what we are. Jazz is constantly fighting his compulsion, he chooses to be good, he chooses to fight by catching killers. There is something amazingly enthralling about that. I felt… all the feelings… for Jazz, mainly because he never quite believes he IS good. I can’t wait to read the next book to see how he’s doing.
Barry Lyga did some intricate plotting with this novel. All the little details like the reason Jazz dates Connie, his best friend Howie with his blood disorder, Jazz’s crazy grandmother,
Jazz hadn’t given her many details of exactly what life in the Dent house had been like, but he’d told her enough that she knew it wasn’t hearts and flowers. Well, except for the occasional heart cut from a chest. And the kind of flowers you send to funerals.
Jazz spent a chunk of the day fantasizing about ways to kill his grandmother, plotting them and planning them in the most excruciating, gruesome detail his imagination would allow. It turned out his imagination allowed quite a bit. He spent the rest of the day convincing himself–over and over–not to do it.
“This is why I forgive, but I don’t forget. When you forget someone, the forgiveness doesn’t mean anything anymore.”