Parents' Choice Foundation: Reviewing Children's Media Since 1978



Spring 2012 Fiction
Ages: 14 & Up
Author: Daniel Kraus
Publisher: Random House
ISBN: 978-0385738576
Hardcover Price: $16.99

Rotters by Daniel Kraus is gruesome and creepy in ways I never imagined a book could be, and I mean that in a good way.

Joey Crouch has a nice life with his mother in Chicago. He plays the trumpet, gets straight A's, and has a great best friend. But when his mother dies the summer before junior year, his world changes drastically. He's sent to a remote little town, far away, to live with the father he's never met.

Joey's father is a grave-robber, better known in the trade as a "digger." When Joey arrives at his house he finds a big surly man, fond of whiskey and solitude. There's no food, no phone, no furniture to speak of and a terrible stench. Clues of his father's unusual occupation abound, and eventually he comes clean.

The story follows Joey from his initial horror through a promising apprenticeship. And as father educates son about the history and tradition of his craft, so Daniel Kraus educates the reader about the art and history of grave-robbing. This goes as far back as the 19th century, when "resurrection men" dug up corpses for medical study. The life of a Digger is something most readers have given little thought to, but Daniel Kraus' rich and vibrant depiction will leave them well-versed to the craft it employs. In page-turning prose, Kraus explores everything from the mechanics of digging a hole, to the graphic process of decomposition, to the grisly cast of characters who roam the night. Rat kings, fly swarms, putrid colors and rancid smells all permeate the book. You'll feel it in your skin.

There are two parallel stories in Rotters - the dark underworld of diggers, and Joey's aboveground life as son of a small town pariah.

Broughton High School houses some of the most horrible teens and teachers in fiction, leaving you wondering, at times, which place is worse. Kraus uses descriptive language to create the creepiest world you can imagine; it's first-rate horror.

Teresa DiFalco   ©2012 Parents' Choice
Teresa DiFalco is an award-winning ghostwriter, writer, and mother in Vancouver, Washington. She's been a contributing editor for Parents' Choice for over ten years. She's a strong speller, a menace at badminton, and makes a decent soufflé.

Share This