Gruesome & macabre, odious & revolting emotive & stirring while being palpable Rotters- Daniel Kraus @ 01:21 pm
Gruesome and macabre, odious and revolting, emotive and stirring while being palpable Rotters by Daniel Kraus is sure to be one of the most unique and complex books written for Young Adults this year. The story begins when sixteen-year-old Chicago teen, Joey Crouch witnesses his Mother being killed as she is hit by a truck while crossing the street. Joey is abruptly swept from his life in Chicago to a rural town in Iowa to live with a father that he has never met. His father’s home reeks, has piles of newspapers and magazines everywhere there is no food to be found and there is no technology, phone, computer or television. He has a terrible introduction to his new school and is immediately saddled with the nick-name “Crotch”. While this could easily have fallen into a “woe is me”, mis-understood teen story, it transcends in numerous ways. We quickly learn that Joey’s father is a grave-digger and Joey gradually enters into the cold, brutal lifestyle. There are graphic descriptions of bodies and decay that make you want to turn away and yet that sick part of you can’t help but read every detail. It is an obviously well researched book with references to numerous historical periods and the treatment of corpses, coffins and graves throughout history. I was fascinated to learn that both Michelangelo and Leonardo DiVinci stole bodies to study their anatomy.
The writing style is strangely poetic; “…the only garbage he carried was carrion.” And, “…new sweat from a new day making strange perfume with the unwashed odors of the night.” The writing is also entrancing as the tone and structure changes as the main character Joey changes throughout the book. The story arcs with classic struggles of Fathers and Sons, competition of men, foreshadowing iconography (two-fingered Jesus statue), epic symbols (in this case the King Rat which foretells misfortune) and the impossibility of living a dual life. While Joey is able to maintain a dual life for awhile, he ultimately must choose which life he will lead and perhaps the lifestyle will choose him.
I highly recommend this book to any sophisticated reader. Late junior high, definitely high school and any adult that enjoys a well woven story that is both dark and deep, questions the way we live our lives and the value in our choices and follows a boy brought from near self destruction to becoming a man should read this book. There are disturbing segments with graphic descriptions of violence, drug use, corpses decay, etc, but even if you are a bit squeamish to such things, I think that you will find the read well worth your effort for the gems like these:
“Pictures are not facts, they are fleeting instants with little meaning.”
“I gripped my desk. It felt scummy, hard, real- unlike this moment.”
“He leaned closer. The blue pouches beneath his lower lids swelled to prominence. At the circumference of his perfect eyes I saw root systems of broken vessels. He smelled like all Diggers smell but dipped in the faint turpentine of insomnia.”