Rotters by Daniel Kraus, 5 stars

This book gets five stars for being so incredibly different than anything else I’ve ever read. It’s also really well done. Joey Crouch is an average sixteen-year-old in Chicago when his mom dies in a tragic accident. After that, he’s sent to live with his father, a man he’s never met, and Joey does his best to survive. The man’s house smells disgusting and after just one night there Joey smells just as bad. Kids at school are horrible and his dad seems to be no better, worse even. But his dad has a secret and once Joey learns what it is, the story really gets going.

This book was so much more than I expected it to be. I guess when you’re dealing with grave-robbing you should expect things to get a little dark. I didn’t expect the level of darkness this book held. Joey’s life is horrible. And ironically, it’s worse outside the grave-robbing. The scenes that take place at his new school and at home before he finds out what his dad is doing were the most horrible for me. Here is this kid who’s mom just died and no one is doing anything but letting him suffer. His dad wants nothing to do with him and because of the stench surrounding him and the rumors about his dad, the kids at school torment him.

Slowly, Joey and his dad build a shaky relationship, cemented together when the man begins to teach Joey about grave-robbing. Desperate for a connection with his dad, Joey takes to grave-robbing like a fish to water and there is actually a nice period in the book where Joey seems happy. When a stranger from his parents past shows up, all that is thrown to hell.

The last third of this book is gritty and intense to get through. Joey, however, shines in it. Gaining a strange self confidence from his skills as a grave-robber, he perseveres through everything the dangerous world he has entered throws at him and comes out on the other side.

This book isn’t for the faint of heart, there are parts where you can’t help but wince while reading, but it is wrapped in something beautiful. From the way the author strings his words, to the odd, but touching relationship between Joey and his dad, this book is full of unexpected beauty and a must read for anyone with a strong stomach.

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