Book Review: Rotters by Daniel Kraus

ROTTERS by Daniel Kraus
Publication Date: April 5th 2011 by Delacorte Press

Summary: Grave-robbing. What kind of monster would do such a thing? It’s true that Leonardo da Vinci did it, Shakespeare wrote about it, and the resurrection men of nineteenth-century Scotland practically made it an art. But none of this matters to Joey Crouch, a sixteen-year-old straight-A student living in Chicago with his single mom. For the most part, Joey’s life is about playing the trumpet and avoiding the daily humiliations of high school.

Everything changes when Joey’s mother dies in a tragic accident and he is sent to rural Iowa to live with the father he has never known, a strange, solitary man with unimaginable secrets. At first, Joey’s father wants nothing to do with him, but once father and son come to terms with each other, Joey’s life takes a turn both macabre and exhilarating.

Daniel Kraus’s masterful plotting and unforgettable characters make Rotters a moving, terrifying, and unconventional epic about fathers and sons, complex family ties, taboos, and the ever-present specter of mortality

Review Overview:

  • Gritty, graphic, violent, and gut-wrenching; a great read that pushes you out of your comfort zone
  • Complex novel full of realistic characters and relationships with vivid descriptions
  • Similar in grit to THE MARBURY LENS, so it is definitely not for everyone

Read at your own risk. Daniel Kraus’s ROTTERS is far from a beautiful book. It is gritty, graphic, violent, gut-wrenching, and so, so addicting. Don’t be afraid to read outside of your comfort zone. Sometimes, the most unlikely books end up being one of the best you’ve read in a while.

ROTTERS is just one of those books in which the summary cannot do it justice. A few paragraphs and a handful of sentences cannot capture the essence of the novel.  A son finds out his dad robs graves. Ok, so what? That is what the novel is essentially about, but it is also so much more. It’s about the history of their trade, a teen who lost his mom and just met his dad, the relationship with his dad, bullying, morals, growing up, and so much more. It’s complex on so many levels; a few sentences can’t cover what it’s about.

What I love most about ROTTERS is the development of the father/son relationship between Harnett and Joey. Their relationship is far from conventional which is the beauty of it. But Kraus has written it so wonderfully. The beginning is rocky and the progression is gradual. Changes didn’t happen overnight. Kraus is a master at character and relationship development.

I can’t believe how many times I can get grossed out from reading a book. The descriptions are so vivid that I sincerely hoped that Kraus simply has an overactive imagination. Because the things that Joey has seen are just unbelievable. The first time Joey goes on a dig with Harnett, I literally had to put the book down and said, “Ew!” But the descriptions were just so well written, that I had to read them out loud. His writing transports you right into the grave. I could almost touch, feel, smell, hear, and certainly see exactly what it was like down there. The descriptions were so powerful and stunning.

Similar in grit to THE MARBURY LENS, readers beware. This book is definitely not for everyone. There are lots of graphic scenes, and the subject topic is a little amoral and could come across as offensive. I could see this book as appealing more to boys, but I strongly urge readers of both genders to read this gem. ROTTERS is unlike any other book I’ve read.

I admit, the length is a bit daunting, but don’t let that stop you.


  1. I feel terrible because this is on my shelf but I’m pretty intimidated about how long it is. I haven’t actually found any reviews about it too, so I didn’t want to be “wasting time” so to speak on a book that was just average and 500 pages~! However, after this review, I will definitely read it, it seems like something I’d enjoy. I think the amorality might get me thinking, and I usualy like those gritty books. Haha, I’ll stop rambling now, thank you so, so much for this great review!!

    1. I’d love to know what you think of this one! I hope you get to it soon. It definitely deserves more attention. :)

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