A Discussion of Ari's Motives for Killing and its Irrelevance to His Diagnosis
As this contains spoilers, I would suggest reading the book before delving into this discussion.
I’m actually surprised that some readers interpreted Ari having cyclothymia disorder as the reason for his killing spree, which then brought offense. I hoped that by now, most if not everyone knows that bipolar disorder does not incite violence or make anyone commit a crime. It’s not this author’s intention to suggest otherwise, which explains my reason for the way I dealt with this topic in my recent book Daddy's Stepstalker. In short, giving them no connection whatsoever and a constant drumming into the reader's head of the wrongs Ari's victims have done him.
There’s nothing in Daddy’s Stepstalker that suggests Ari is killing because of his diagnosis. All Ari’s kills have been perfectly rationalized killings of a young man out for revenge against those people who hurt him or the man he loves. That’s it. I’ve put considerable effort into creating a killer who readers love because they can root for him killing every single person he does for having wronged him in some way.
Ari kills Rich because Rich raped his friend and then attempted to rape Ari. He kills Judd because Judd burned down their house and threatened Shaw. He tried to kill his dad because this man was the absolute worst. It’s actually explained in the book that Ari’s dad forced him to kill for him. That’s where Ari started offing people. Not because of a condition he’s been diagnosed with long before, but because of his dad. Ari knew of his condition, and he never once justified the murders as anything to do with it. He never even hints at it. Does he take delight in all these killings? Yes, of course. What’s revenge if you can’t enjoy it? He has absolutely no remorse because these people are better off dead. He’s preventing them from ever hurting him or the ones he loves ever again.
Now let’s pivot to the revelation of Ari’s condition. I admit I debated whether I was going to reveal Ari’s condition when I got to the point, especially knowing I would not be going into a long explanation or detailed analysis of cyclothymia disorder. Ari’s condition wasn’t a plot point to flip the script on what he did. It had nothing to do with the murders he committed. Those are already justified by how horrid he was treated in his past. No other justification for the murders is needed.
In fact, if readers analyze for themselves, they will see there is no stereotype of what Ari behaves like in a manic episode. Instead of the destructive behavior he is accustomed to on the regular, Ari is actually productive during his manic episode. This isn't just by chance. Ari knows how to deal with the episodes by making himself productive. During his episode, Ari was his least destructive self and only acted out when Shaw didn't understand what was happening and prevented him from keeping productive. His condition mentioned at that point in the book had to do with his hospitalization and how far he retreated after the last traumatic event he’d been through. It’s the only time his condition has ever been mentioned, and this is deliberate because it’s not to be linked with his killing. It is also my way of in the future, to have Shaw care for Ari the way Ari has looked after and cared for Shaw. This is now Shaw’s responsibility as Ari’s partner.
Could I have done more to draw out the story beyond that point to incorporate Ari’s condition to make the readers more acclimatized to it? Yes, but cyclothymia is a milder form of bipolar disorder, with episodes being less frequent. Given the short time that the story encompasses, it would have been unrealistic to bring up several episodes of Ari’s high and lows. The point of this story isn’t to focus on the disorder. To have done that would seem as if I was trying to incorporate this with the murder storyline and justify Ari’s misdeeds. Instead, it’s mentioned that he’s once again seeing his psychiatrist and Shaw ensures he takes his medications the way he should. In that way, his condition, while not the focal point of the story, is not dismissed.
By the time we get to the epilogue, we see that Ari’s life is back on track. Is it because he’s been taking his medications so he’s no longer killing? Not one bit. Shaw did the right thing by removing Ari from their hostile environment and starting over fresh in a place where neither had enemies. Ari has no reason to kill, so he is no longer killing. He never killed just for killing’s sake and his enemies are removed from his life. Another subtle hint that Ari’s cyclothymia disorder has nothing at all to do with him killing is that Shaw ensures he takes his meds. Yet, in the epilogue, Shaw thought Ari had killed and was hiding a body on their property. Not even Shaw justifies Ari’s killings because of his diagnosis. No one does.
It is certainly not this author’s intention for the takeaway of this story to be that Ari killed people because he has cyclothymia disorder. What we have is a boy who kills those people who have done him and the people he loves wrong.