This was a book I picked on a whim, as it sounded right up my alley. And I can say, by the second chapter, I was hooked. Really, really, hooked.
Summary: 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?
Story: 3.5/5: All right, I admit it: part of the reason I got this book was because it reminded me of one of my favorite Webtoons, Bastard.
The mystery here wasn’t my favorite. While it was unique in the way that the new serial killer was mimicking Jazz’s dad’s murders, for the most part, it was a standard mystery. That’s not a bad thing; in fact, out of many of the mysteries I have read this year, this was one of the best ones. It had good twists, and managed to be actually creepy without resorting to too much gore, which I appreciated. In the end, while the mystery was good, it wasn’t the reason this was such a gripping book.
Characters: 4.5/5: Okay, I have to say it; Jazz is one of the best protagonists I’ve had the pleasure of reading. He is such a morally gray character, so messed up, and yet so sympathetic. He is in a constant war with himself, always second guessing his own emotions and motivations towards others. He’s worried that he could genuinely kill someone, and that he already has but can’t remember. In the hands of another author, this could be portrayed as heavy handed, or difficult to take seriously. But Lyga writes him so well, he feels really realistic.
Side characters include Connie, Jazz’s girlfriend. She’s intuitive and really good for him; smart, and she sees when he tries to lie to her (about investigating and his worries). However, she isn’t shown much. In my opinion, she simply isn’t that compelling; she’s a good character, just not the most interesting to me. I understand that her being black is supposed to be a plot point about her, but maybe it’s because I’m biracial and race doesn’t have much of an impact in my life, but I just don’t find those parts as interesting as they could be.
Howie is Jazz’s best friend, and he has a problem that isn’t represented much in books; he’s a Type-A hemophiliac. Maybe it’s because that’s not shown much in books, but I found that really interesting. While Howie himself can be a little frustrating (he comes off as the classic best friend character), I think, like with Connie, if they’re given more page time, they have potential to be really good characters.
Other people include G. Williams, the deputy, Erickson, a mean transferred police officer, Gramma, Jazz’s grandma who has dementia, and Billy Dent, Jazz’s dad. Even though Billy only appears physically once in the book, his presence is pretty strong throughout, and the scene in which he appears is one of the most memorable.
Writing: 4/5: I was sort of hoping this would be in first person, I would’ve liked that. But as the book goes on, it becomes clear why it wasn’t a first person story. I won’t say why, but let’s just say it being in third person was for the best. Lyga’s writing style was definitely creepy. You could tell he’d done a lot of research on psychology, and of course, serial killers. It was really gripping, and even if it was in the third person, you truly felt like you were in Jazz’s head at times, something that is mostly achieved by being in the first person. It could be disturbing in that way, but it was worth it. So, so, worth it.
Details: 5/5: There was so much research involved! You could just tell that Lyga had put a lot of effort into being as realistic as he could, and that paid off. It paid off so much. It’s part of what made the book feel so real and not contrived. It rung true in a way most thrillers don’t, and I loved the research.
World Building: 4/5: The small town of Lobo’s Nod felt like that: small. Kind of alone, and kind of Southern. I dunno if that’s where it actually is or not, but it felt that way. It didn’t seem like the kind of place two serial killers would strike, but you never know, do you? It had a lot of small details and shops that helped set it up as a viable setting.
- Compelling lead: Let me just say, that Jazz Dent is unlike most of the book protagonists I have ever read. He achieved a level of interesting in his moral ambiguity that I usually only see in Eastern media (like in the aforementioned Bastard). He was what made this book difficult to put down, and so engrossing.
- Research: Barry Lyga did his research on the psychology of sociopaths and serial killers, and that shows. He is fantastic at writing the twistedness without going overboard or feeling contrived.
- Psychological thriller: This book had every opportunity to be gory and graphic, but it wasn’t. It relied more on the mind of Jazz and the serial killer to be creepy, and rather than disgustingly disturbing. While it does have some graphic information, it’s mainly kept to a minimum, relying on the human mind to be creepy.
- Underdeveloped side characters: The downside to such a brilliant main lead would be the lack of development for Connie, Howie, and others. They just didn’t feel that compelling to me, thought that could change in the future. The big exception is Billy Dent, Jazz’s dad. He’s disturbing.
- Lack of answers?: the ending bothered me a little, it left some stuff wide open. But this is a trilogy, so that may change in the future.
- Not the strongest mystery: if you come here for the sake of he plot, I dunno. While the mystery itself was good and solid, it was really the lead character that made this book so gripping. So if you want a more plot driven story, this may not be for you. It probably will, but you never know.
Final Grade: 4/5: This was a good beginning to an interesting trilogy, the kind of book you unfortunately don’t see a lot of in YA. I look forward to reading Game (I got it from the library today), and hopefully getting just as engrossed, if not more so, in that one,