About the Book

Title: Rotters
Published: 2011

Cover Story: Chills ‘n Thrills
BFF Charm: Nay
Adoption Certificate: YAY
Swoonworthy Scale: -2
Talky Talk: Perfectly Gruesome
Bonus Factor: Two-Fingered Jesus, Grave Diggers
Relationship Status: I Had the Time of My Life

Cover Story: Chills ‘n Thrills

This would be my ideal book cover if I were a 13-year old boy. As a thirty-something woman, I still didn’t mind it, but based on the cover I thought it was going to be similar to the Goosebumps books I read as a kid. It wasn’t. But you know what? That the jacket was removable, revealing a plain blue book with black binding. Perfection.

The Deal

Joey Crouch lives in Chicago with his mom until an accident claims her life. In her will, his mother expresses a wish for him to go live with the father he never knew in someplace called Bloughton, Iowa. Once there, dear old dad won’t even acknowledge Joey, but unfortunately for him, the kids at school DO, calling him the son of ‘the garbageman’ before administering beatings and humiliation. One night Joey decides to follow his dad on his nightly excursions, where he finds out that his dad is not a garbageman, but a grave robber–from a long line of grave robbers, so to speak. Before he can say ‘sack ’em up’ Joey is part of a world more sinister and macabre than he could ever imagine.

This is a boy book. If you’re looking for that YA book to get your boyfriend or husband to try out, and he’s resisted your efforts so far? Give him this.

BFF Charm: Nay

BFF Charm that says "denied"

Oh man, oh geez, oh man am I glad that I am NOT Joey Crouch. I mean, seriously. The daily misery that makes up this kid’s life is just awful. I’m pretty sure that if I were a kid in this story, I WOULD have tried to befriend Joey, but unfortunately, his life sucks so much that even his friends suffer. Plus, he can never have anyone be really close, since they can’t know about his activities after dark. However…

Adoption Certificate: YAY

I wanted to adopt him SO MUCH. I wanted Joey to have parents to spoil him with affection and feed him properly and god, at least give him a bed to sleep on! I wanted to comfort him after a day of torment at school, encourage him in playing his trumpet and studying so hard, help him pick out cool clothes, and threaten the bejezus out of that asswipe Gottschalk. Also, I would change his last name, so at least the kids would stop calling him ‘Crotch’.

Swoonworthy Scale: -2

Uh yeah, I was pretty much too busy being grossed out and turning each page with my hands covering my eyes because I was so afraid of what was going to happen next to think about anything swoony.

Talky Talk: Perfectly Gruesome

Funny story. I was friends with this girl Wendy Kraus when I was a kid, and she had a younger brother named Daniel, who was the epitome of a proper young gentleman. While reading this book I liked to pretend this author was actually that kid I used to know.

I felt like I watched this story unfold in slow motion. Each page was agonizing as I grew to care for its characters, daring to hope for some form of happy outcome. It neither rushes nor plods along, moving steadily toward worse and worse possible outcomes, and much like the saying about the train wreck, I couldn’t look away.

Words like ‘beautiful’ and ‘haunting’ encompass a portion of Kraus’s prose, but these words, I feel, are paltry in comparison to how much of an emotional gut punch this book delivers time and again. I know authors don’t necessarily appreciate being compared to other authors, but the only way I can think to accurately describe Kraus’s writing style in this book is to say that it was as if Flannery O’Conner took a bad LSD trip after watching Faces Of Death.

Bonus Factor: Two-Fingered Jesus

I actually love pictures of the two-fingered Jesus. I like to make up things in my mind that he might be saying or doing, like ordering some whiskey, or that he’s just finished giving the British version of ‘eff you’ and has turned his hand around. Anyway, Joey’s relationship with the two-fingered Jesus brought both some humor and sweetness to this story that was otherwise intensity in ten cities.

Bonus Factor: Grave Diggers

Did anyone besides me see this movie? No? Zany grave diggers, spooks and mystical beings? Well, this book doesn’t have much in common with ‘I Sell The Dead’, except for the fact that they are grave diggers, but still! Grave diggers! I mean, that’s not a plot point you see every day! Plus, I don’t know if the whole digger lore/history Kraus put in the book is true or completely a figment of his imagination, but it’s kind of amazing–if horrifying.

Relationship Status: I Had the Time of My Life

No, I’ve never felt this way before, book. Yes, I swear it’s the truth, and I owe it all to you. That said, things got pretty intense–more intense than I could handle on a regular basis. So while I’ll never forget you, I think it’s best if we go our separate ways. I know you understand.

FTC Full Disclosure: I received my copy of the book from Random House. I received neither money nor cocktails for writing this review (dammit!). Rotters is available now.

Jenny grew up on a steady diet of Piers Anthony, Isaac Asimov and Star Wars novels. She has now expanded her tastes to include television, movies, and YA fiction.