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Rotters Paperback – April 10, 2012

4.0 out of 5 stars 68 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews


--WINNER, 2012 Odyssey Award

--FINALIST, 2012 Bram Stoker Award


"A strongly written tale of adolescence, grave robbing, and the mysteries of death, ROTTERS is uncompromising, dark, and true."
--GUILLERMO DEL TORO (Hellboy, Pan's Labyrinth)
& CHUCK HOGAN (The Strain Trilogy)

"This is an unforgettable book. An unforgettable character. And an adventure that leads to unforgettable horror. I loved it."

"Grueling, demented, and so crammed with noxious awesomeness that I had to read it twice."
--SCOTT WESTERFELD, Leviathan and Uglies

"Profoundly affecting and deeply disturbing, ROTTERS kept me reading to the wee hours of the morning. A multi-layered, complex novel that pulls no punches. Terrific!"
--RICK YANCEY, The Monstrumologist

"This is a bold, utterly fearless, uncompromising story told with such skill, with such beauty, and with such depth of focus it just warps the fabric of reality. I'm in awe of this book."
--MICHAEL GRANT, the Gone series

Starred review, The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books, May 2011:
"A masterly touch at thriller pacing, Kraus gives the current crop of pretentiously serious supernatural YA novels a wild run for their money."

Starred review, Booklist:
"A tour-de-force combination of reader and writer."

School Library Journal:
"A gripping and emotional tale."

Kirkus Reviews:
"A cerebral romp through a fascinating, revolting underworld."

"Twists and turns will leave readers gasping."

"As suspenseful and masterfully told as it is gruesome and terrifying. You'd be hard-pressed to find a coming-of-age story as satisfying as this."--Cory Doctorow, author of Little Brother and coeditor of Boing Boing

"Grueling, demented, and so crammed with noxious awesomeness that I had to read it twice."--Scott Westerfeld, author of the Uglies series

"This is an unforgettable book. An unforgettable character . . . and an adventure that leads to unforgettable HORROR. I loved it!"--R. L. Stine

"A multi-layered, complex novel that pulls no punches. Terrific!"--Rick Yancey, author of The Monstrumologist

"Uncompromising, dark, and true."--Guillermo Del Toro, coauthor of the Strain Trilogy and director of Hellboy and Pan's Labyrinth, and Chuck Hogan, coauthor of the Strain Trilogy

"A cerebral romp through a fascinating, revolting underworld."--Kirkus Reviews
"One of the darkest, wildest, most unsettling adolescent novels I've ever come across. . . . Kraus is absolutely original."--The Millions

"A new horror classic."--Fangoria

From the Hardcover edition.

From the Author

A note from author Daniel Kraus


The genesis of Rotters came to me ten years ago. I was driving away from the North Carolina coast, trying to outrun a hurricane, when I passed a cemetery. An image popped into my head: two men battling through the swampy, corpse-ridden mud to find some valuable object. I didn't know who these men were or what they were after, but the vision was apocalyptic and exciting.

A few years ago, I began to give serious thought to those two nameless figures. I've always liked horror movies and had started to take notice of all the great grave robbing scenes. They were everywhere, from the obvious classics (Frankenstein), to new blockbusters at my local multiplex (Drag Me to Hell), to more obscure fare I'd catch late-night on TV (like the must-see Mr. Sardonicus). One constant stuck out: grave robbing was always kept on the periphery, as if it were something even the filmmakers were scared to dwell upon. And so I thought, what if you did dwell upon it? What exactly would you see?

Months later I found myself on the winning end of a stack of history books about "resurrection men"--nineteenth-century grave robbers hired to steal bodies for use in medical school dissections. You might expect I'd be disgusted at their adventures; instead, I found myself greatly impressed. There was an art to it. And like all arts, it was something that could be passed down, master to apprentice, or--even more interesting to me as an author--father to son.


Rotters is a story about a boy named Joey Crouch who loses everything--his mother, his friends, his home, even his one talent is rendered useless--and then out of desperation turns to Ken Harnett, his mysterious and threatening biological father, only to find that Harnett is, in fact, the dad he's always needed. And this truth is in spite of--or maybe partly because of--what he does in graveyards under the cover of night.

I knew right away the biggest challenge in writing the book would be to generate sympathy for people who did something so repugnant. But I also knew right away that sympathy was possible, because the passing on of treasured information is by its very nature a tender act. Even Harnett's initial coldness is a form of tenderness: it's meant to turn Joey away from a dangerous and lonely life. When Joey is finally let in, he suffers a training period as cruel as that of any budding concert pianist, but what drives this merciless routine is, once again, love. The secrets Harnett reveal to Joey are no less than the secrets of mortality and how we deal with the promise of our own demise. It's heavy stuff, no doubt. But if handled with a little style and a lot of guts, I knew it could be the stuff of great literature, too.

We've all seen those time-lapse films of the decomposition of a dead animal. At first, it's gross. But then the flesh's constant reinvention becomes fascinating, and, after a while, even sort of beautiful. It is my hope that Rotters has a similar effect--that if we, writer and reader, look hard enough together at something ugly, it might just transform into something magnificent.

Even before joining his father in the family business, the complications in Joey's life are legion: he's an outcast and his dad is the town pariah--not to mention that awful smell. But these burdens are nothing when compared to those of the men Joey meets: the underworld of grave robbers known as the Diggers. These Diggers are proud knights fighting for a dying kingdom and have given their entire lives to a labor no one will ever appreciate. Joey's arrival and his relationship with Harnett forces the Diggers to wonder if they've wasted their lives. Surely no lurker of graveyards deserves a gift as great as love. This is a world of darkness that Joey has plunged into--and we haven't even gotten to Harnett's would-be brother Boggs, whose jealousy runs so deep that he'll stop at almost nothing to make Joey his own son.

Darkness is a defining characteristic of Rotters. But it's worthy to remember that darkness is just that--it's dark--and what is being concealed in the dark is not just the horrible and fearsome, it's also the inspirational and moving. Horror means nothing without happiness; dark means nothing without light. Rotters may make you feel frightened, but hopefully it will also make you simply feel.  It's that kind of book, or at least I hope it is. --This text refers to the Preloaded Digital Audio Player edition.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 464 pages
  • Publisher: Ember; Reprint edition (April 10, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0385738587
  • ISBN-13: 978-0385738583
  • Product Dimensions: 5.6 x 1 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (68 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #50,720 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By J.Prather TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on March 6, 2011
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
What an incredible read. Rotters brings to life a secret society of men dedicated to the art and heroism of grave robbery. Connoisseurs of death, these men are throwbacks to the 1800's when the resurrectionists made their way by supplying the living with dead bodies. Take all of that and mix in a story of a teen coming of age,dealing with grief,and even school bullying and you get a story that is as complex and multi layered as any in YA literature.

Joey is sixteen when his mother is killed and he is forced to go live with a father he's never known. This starts his downward spiral into what some may call madness and despair but what Joey comes to consider as excitement and belonging. He's a marvelously well developed character and it's the strength of this portrayal that propels the story along. I felt his despair so keenly and his struggles were so realistically portrayed that I was glued to the page.

This story is not for the faint of heart. It's gross, intense, and often terrifying. It's probably the darkest story I've read in quite a while. It grabs you right from the beginning with Joey's frenzied descriptions of all the ways his mother could die, and doesn't let up till the very end. In between the reader is treated to some incredibly memorable characters. Every person we meet is nuanced and portrayed in such a way that you feel like you know their deepest secrets and true natures.

Rotters reminded me of Rick Yancey's The Monstrumologist. It exhibits the same high quality writing and often times gruesome subject matter, only in a contemporary setting. They are still quite different, but they both have intricate stories that are uncommon for this genre.

There are some truly lyrical descriptive passages in this book.
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Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
I have to take a deep breath here because my enthusiasm for Rotters is such that my review might quickly decompose to incoherent gushing.

This is the highest praise I can give:

If two of my favorite books got together and made a child, Stiff by Mary Roach and The Monstrumologist by Rick Yancey, Rotters would be that unholy Frankenstein child - a breathlessly macabre creation of horror and pathos.

Death is all over this book, fear of death, physical death, emotional death, death of hope. Joey has been sheltered all his 15 years by his beloved mother, but when she dies and he goes to live with a father he's never met - Joey is pitched into a bleak and ugly new existence - and that's BEFORE he meets his first corpse.

As the son of the creepy and stinky "Garbage Man" (as Joey's father is called by the townspeople) Joey quickly becomes his new school's pariah. He is beaten almost daily, terrorized by a sadistic teacher, and has no friends. High school is a horrifying place and his cold father and dreary home is no comfort.

With ordinary society so putrid in its treatment of Joey, is it any wonder then that he becomes drawn to the mysterious world of grave robbing - his father's secret occupation? Joey buries himself in learning all about the underground realm of grave thievery composed of strange, solitary men loosely held together by pacts and old-fashioned codes of honor. Here, grave robbing is a calling and an art, almost noble in its tradition going back to the Resurrectionists of the 18th Century. Almost noble, but not quite - for nightly, Joey descends the underworld of foul, rotting corpses, Rat Kings, maggots, severed limbs in pursuit of jewelry and precious mementos to pawn.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I'm not even sure how to review this book. It was so dark and terrifying, yet so enthralling, I can't even bring myself to talk about it. I know it was written as a young adult novel, but it defies all boundaries and rules the genre set down. Rotters by Daniel Kraus defies all boundaries, adult, young adult, and everything in between. If you go into this book thinking you know what is going to happen, you are going to be sadly mistaken!

Joey's mother dies in a freak accident and he is shipped off to live with his father who he never met. When he gets to the filthy hovel his father calls a cabin, Joey knows live has changed forever. His father disappears for days, and with no food in the cabin and no money, Joey is literally starving. When he is caught trying to steal money out of a locker to buy lunch after days without a meal (or seeing his father), he confesses his living situation to the principal. They put him on free lunches and summon his father to come to the school as soon as he returns. When his father finally comes back home and goes to the school, it is clear they forced him not to leave Joey alone, and Ken Harnett is not happy about it.

Harnett starts getting anxious and slips out at night occasionally. After snooping around the cabin, Joey assumes his father robs recently deceased people's homes. He follows Harnett one night and discovers something so gruesome he can barely process it: Harnett is a grave robber. He digs up graves and steals the valuables, expertly replacing every piece of dirt or tuft of sod so no one knew he was there. Joey is oddly interested and insists (blackmails) Harnett into taking him on the next dig. On his rookie run, Joey is in for the lesson of his life that changes his very sense of being.
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