cover image Rotters


Daniel Kraus, Delacorte, $16.99 (464p) ISBN 978-0-385-73857-6

Kraus's (The Monster Variations) sophomore novel is a gruesome and meandering work that saps the life (so to speak) out of a potentially fascinating subject. When 16-year-old Joey's mother is killed by a bus, he's sent to live with Ken Harnett, his previously unknown father in Iowa. Harnett is distant and passively abusive, not taking care of his son's food or hygiene needs for days at a time as he travels, and Joey quickly becomes the target of school bullies (including both a jock and a teacher). When Joey discovers that Harnett's business is actually grave robbing, he persuades his father to bring him along. There's little sense of conflict over the morality or ethics of grave robbing, which is matched by Joey's lack of remorse over his revenge on the bullies or those he perceives as having harmed him—something that might be interesting in a character deliberately portrayed as a sociopath, but here feels like an omission. There's little danger or excitement in the grave robbing scenes and nothing new in the dreary, overlong scenes of an outsider at a new school. Ages 14–up. (Apr.)