Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Rotters by Daniel Kraus

Genre: YA contemp/ horror
Published: 2011 by Delacorte Press
Pages: 448 (available in paperback-- check it out on Amazon)

Synopsis: Grave-robbing. What kind of monster would do such a thing? It's true that Leonardo da Vinci did it, Shakespeare wrote about it, and the resurrection men of nineteenth-century Scotland practically made it an art. But none of this matters to Joey Crouch, a sixteen-year-old straight-A student living in Chicago with his single mom. For the most part, Joey's life is about playing the trumpet and avoiding the daily humiliations of high school.
Everything changes when Joey's mother dies in a tragic accident and he is sent to rural Iowa to live with the father he has never known, a strange, solitary man with unimaginable secrets. At first, Joey's father wants nothing to do with him, but once father and son come to terms with each other, Joey's life takes a turn both macabre and exhilarating.
Daniel Kraus's masterful plotting and unforgettable characters make Rotters a moving, terrifying, and unconventional epic about fathers and sons, complex family ties, taboos, and the ever-present specter of mortality.

Cover Thoughts:
Definitely like this cover better than the original hardcover, with all the gloomy tombstones!  It has the neat feel of a collage, like it could be scribblings on the inside of a young grave-robber's notebook.  Dark, yet whimsical, and downright intriguing. 

My Take:
Rotters is definitely not your typical YA book, or your typical book, period!  It's utterly unpredictable, extremely absorbing, and both thought-provoking and disturbing in ways that matter.  I totally wanted to read it because of that interesting cover and because I'd read reviews saying that it's a completely different kind of read-- having read it, I couldn't agree more.

Forced to move after his mother's sudden death, our protagonist Joey is shocked to find himself an instant outcast at his new high school.  His father is the local parish-- the Garbageman, everyone calls him, and Joey has inadvertently become the Garbageman's Son.  Living in his new home, a ramshackle house which indeed does smell of something strange and foul, and dealing with his bizarre, reclusive father, Joey finds himself unprepared for the incredible, sickening truth, even as he comes to suspect it: his father is a grave-digger, and worse, a grave-robber.  He is part of an ancient and dying order of men, nicknamed the Diggers, who make their unorthodox living by traveling the country and digging up the treasures buried with the newly-dead.  At first, Joey is repulsed... but also fascinated.  The Diggers are a strange and dying breed of men, and as he begins to understand their creed, he also begins to unravel the mystery of his father's dark past and the secret of his father's one-time best friend, a man known as Boggs, who is a parish even among the outcast order of the Diggers. 

Rotters is written in first-person, easy to read except in a very few slow parts in the middle of the book, and fairly fast-paced.  Despite this, it manages to be strangely philosophical-- kudos to Daniel Kraus for doing that while still keeping the book entertaining!  It's difficult to explain exactly what a "rotter" is-- and no, it's not simply a corpse-- without having read the book, but the revelations Joey makes constantly come as surprises-- there is nothing predictable about this mad-cap, ingenious plot.   
Rotters doesn't go on my shelf of favorites, simply because it isn't the kind of book I would re-read again (that's kind of top criteria for that mental bookshelf).  But it is the kind of book I will always remember very clearly: Rotters is a story both exhilarating and haunting, one that I think all but the most faint of stomach or heart readers will enjoy if they give this terrific book a chance.

Book Rating:

--Rotters on Goodreads
--Daniel Kraus on Rotters and his other books & a book trailer

Similar Reads:
--The Monstrumologist by Rick Yancey (male narrator, with a similar but more Victorian feel: scary monsters and Jack the Ripper)
--Devil's Kiss by Sarwat Chadda (girl inherits a legacy as dark as grave-digging-- but there's more paranormal and more romance)


Aylee said...

This one kind of flew under my radar when it first came out, but now I'm left wondering why. It really does sound original - love that concept! Thanks so much for the rec!

Alison Can Read said...

Huh. That sounds very good although I'm not sure it's my kind of thing. I haven't heard of it. I'm surprised. The cover definitely makes the book stand out.

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