Emily's Reviews > Rotters

Rotters by Daniel Kraus
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's review
Jun 16, 2012

liked it
bookshelves: audio, contemporary, family-stories, good-for-boys, serious-subject-matter, yalsa-challenge-2012, ya-fiction
Read in June, 2012

Why I picked it up:  It’s on the list for the YALSA challenge

Joey has never been outside of Chicago.  He lives with his mom, gets straight As, plays the trumpet, and tries to get by with as few problems as possible.  Until his mom dies suddenly and he is sent to Bloughton, Iowa to the father he’s never met.  Joey’s father does not seem happy to be reunited with his son, and the living conditions are pretty terrible.  Then Joey learns his father’s secret: he’s a grave robber.

I don’t even know what to say about this book.  I did not enjoy it.  The 2 weeks it took me to listen to it were probably the most uncomfortable 2 weeks of commuting I’ve ever had.  And yet the quality of the book is unmistakable.  The writing is at time breathlessly beautiful, and I’m not someone who notices that sort of thing all that much.  The majority of the characters are extremely interesting and surprising.  The plot takes unexpected twists and turns.  Even the plot points that I knew were coming were handled in such a way that I was surprised.

It’s hard to get past how dark and depressing the book is.  For the first 2/3 of the book, the grave robbing parts are actually a relief, so horrible are the things that happen to Joey at school. And every time you think think you've reached the point where things are as bad as they can get, you learn that you are wrong. Very wrong.

One thing that frustrated me was that I wanted an author's note telling me, first of all, if Daniel Kraus is sane. (Mostly kidding.) But seriously. The details on the history and community of graverobbers is so interesting that I really wanted to know what was real and what wasn't. I did end up finding what I wanted, but I found it on the audiobook site. (http://www.randomhouse.com/audio/list... for those who are interested.) Why wasn't it a part of the book? I found this information fascinating and I think author's notes really enhance books, especially when the topic is somewhat unusual subject matter. And it's neat to know where the inspiration came from.

A word about the audio: I thought the reader was really, really good. Kirby Heyborne, who I had never heard of, was really great, and I can see why this won the Odyssey award for outstanding youth audio book. The voices for some of the characters were amazing, and that may be the one thing that got me through the book.

I struggled with how to rate this book. I usually rate using Goodreads terms literally. In that case, this would be like a 1.5 But on the other hand, this is a quality book, and I feel like I need to reflect that. So for now, it gets a 3. I reserve the right to change that later.

Contains: language, bullying, dead bodies, really dark stuff
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