Monday, December 17, 2012

Review: Rotters

By Daniel Kraus, read by Kirby Heyborne
Published 2011 by Listening Library

Joey Crouch is about to have a very surreal awakening. His mother is going to die, and he is going to be sent to live with his father, a man he's never known. And he's going to discover his father's very unusual secret - grave-robbing.

I'm a big fan of audiobooks and, between commuting and exercising, I listen to quite a few. I downloaded this one recently because it won this year's Odyssey Award (the ALA Youth Media Award for audiobook productions). I was really excited to listen, assuming I was in for a treat. Unfortunately, I didn't have the best experience with this one.

First, this book and I got started on the wrong foot. I was under the very mistaken impression that this was a historical fiction story. I didn't really until maybe chapter 6 or 7 that this book does actually take place in modern times; up to that point, I was thinking that maybe there was going to be some crazy time traveling to get back to the days of grave-robbing. WRONG. The grave-robbing is taking place very much in today's world. Things for this book and I did not really get any better from this point on.

I guess I don't really know how to explain my feelings about this book. I'd read quite a few reviews that this book was beautifully written, despite its disturbing subject matter. Many reviews called this book a horror - well, yay. I love horror. I wrote a whole thesis on it. Disturbing subject matter written eloquently? Also right up my alley - The Love Curse of the Rumbaughs is one of my absolutely favorite books. I really thought this would be an ideal book for me. But it just wasn't.

Yes, the subject matter is disturbing and, for the squeamish, the descriptions are probably a bit much. But, this book is not horror. Yes, it tells of horrific things, but, at least for me, it didn't evoke the fear and anxiety that I associate with a true horror story. Perhaps if I had actually cared about Joey or any of the characters I might have felt more anxious and afraid. But I just did not connect with Joey in any way and I really didn't care how poorly his father treated him or how he struggled with his morality throughout the novel.

Is it well-written? I don't know. I'm inclined to say probably, but I found myself completely bored and frustrated while listening. There seemed to be a lot of descriptive passages - A LOT. To me, it felt like the book was trying too hard to be a beautifully written book about the macabre. It just didn't work for me.

On the other hand, I can see, in a way, why the audio production was awarded. Heyborne really seems to push his limits and fully embodies a variety of characters. I personally didn't care for a number of the intonations and inflections he used to represent the different characters, but there's no denying that he is a talented vocal actor and that this is a well-done production.

The plot - on the surface, it's about Joey and his father coming to terms with his mother's death and learning to live with each other and their secrets. Actually, I'm not sure that's what it's about because I think Kraus was trying to make this a really philosophical novel about the evil we inflict on each other - you know, the whole "what darkness lies in the hearts of men" and whatnot. And that stuff is here - it just wasn't done in a way that was effective and interesting for me.

I really don't know how I feel about this book. I think I'd need to give the print version a try to fully wrap my mind around my thoughts.

Anyone out there read this one? Want to convince me I'm just missing its brilliance?

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