Author: Daniel Kraus
Genre: YA Horror
Publication Date: April 5, 2011
Format: Hardcover, 448 Pages
ISBN-10: 0385738579 (Random House Kids)
ISBN-13: 978-0385738576 (Random House Kids)
Reviewed by: Jessie
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 himiliations of high school.
Everything changes when Joeys’ 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.
Quick & Dirty: A novel written almost like the poetry of the dark romanticism genre, beautiful writing that pulls you deep into the dismal feelings and atmosphere of the book, not necessarily somewhere anyone would like to be for an extended period of time.
Opening Sentence: This is the day my mother dies.
The author is more of an adult writer given the vocabulary, content, and depth of the writing. There seemed to be an attempt to aim this more towards a teenager audience but I think he still didn’t quite succeed in that regard. The pace wasn’t fast enough and I think the content just started out too heavy in the first place. The storyline is too repetitive and the action is very choppy and interrupted. I didn’t feel let down at the end of the book, just at certain points during the book when it started to drag.
This was a difficult journey for anyone to read, the combination of the depth and heaviness of the plot and the depressing lives of the characters just was rather ghastly to plow through, and the writing style contributed to that heaviness as well. There was value to that, as the reader definitely felt some of what the characters were going through just as they were being dragged through it as well, but it wasn’t an uplifting read, if that’s what you normally go for. There were obvious points in the story that could have gone uphill, and then you were pulled down further, along with Joey. Which is hard, for Joey and for the reader, but this also made it entirely about the story, not about the reader necessarily enjoying every minute of the story.
Joey wasn’t a really intriguing character for me. At first, Joey attracts sympathy, and the reader is drawn to him in that regard. As a coming of age story, he is definitely immature and definitely coddled by his mother. Sympathy at his mother’s death is certainly deserved, but he keeps trying to compare his mother to his father, which is just a completely unfair comparison. As a sixteen-year-old, he should be able to take care of his own basic needs, and instead he just feels picked on, seeming more like a preteen, like the youngest child, than an almost adult. He is bullied at school, and just doesn’t go out of his way to counter that, despite being a straight-A student. When he finally decides to take matters into his own hands, he goes completely overboard. It just seems a rather dramatic change, along with the plot.
This is a book that will get you thinking, but at the same time make you not want to think about it even while you are reading it and especially while you aren’t reading it, and especially if you have a really vivid imagination. Towards the middle of the book I actually began to think that it wasn’t too bad and started to redeem itself, but then I realized I was only halfway through the book. At that point things started to get pretty weird, much more what you would expect just given the entirely gruesome premise. I found some value in the book, especially at the very end, but to get to that point wasn’t exactly entertaining or enjoyable for me. It would come back to your expectations of a good book in the first place, and from reading the synopsis, you would most likely know if this is the book for you or not. For me, it wasn’t my book, but I did give it a chance and I’m not disappointed that I did.
The main redemption for this book is implied to be the father and son relationship. After all, why would Joey’s mother hardly speak of his father, and yet take the time to write in her will that he should go to his father if she were to pass away? And that relationship never built up enough substance for me to feel invested in it, the way I needed to be for the ending of the book. Again, too much of the book relied on shock and gore for me, I personally would have appreciated this book more if the plot had been supporting the characters and relationships, rather than the other way around.
“How?” I asked one evening.
It had been a few days since we had last spoken; the topic, though, had not changed. “A knife,” he said, looking at me for a moment before going back to reading the stack of newspapers that arrived each day in the mail. But now he was too distracted to read. He looked at me again, his eyes less scarlet than in the past, less hooded with anger. “I have a knife from Scotland,” he said softly, “with a blade so sharp there would be almost no pain.” The wounds of my mother’s ear: maybe it was the same blade, maybe it would be the last thing she and I shared.
FTC Advisory: Delacorte Books for Young Readers/Random House provided me with a copy of Rotters. No goody bags, sponsorships, “material connections,” or bribes were exchanged for my review.
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