Daniel Kraus's young adult novel Rotters tells the unlikely story of Joey Crouch, a 16 year old boy from Chicago whose mother is killed by a bus; Joey is sent to live with his mysterious father in small-town Iowa, and that's when things get weird. Joey's father is taciturn, he smells bad, he lives in a shack, and he doesn't seem interested in being any sort of father (or even roommate) with his long-lost son. Joey is an instant pariah at high-school, subjected to tortures and humiliations thanks in part to his father's reputation as the town weirdo, and in part to the fact that Joey's home has no facility for washing clothes and its unique smell clings to him and all his possessions.
Thus far, it sounds like a story about a kid who's dad is mentally unbalanced, or neglectful, or sadistic, but when Joey stows away in the bed of his father's truck to see where the old man goes on his long absences, he learns the truth: his father is a grave robber.
Joey's intrusion into his father's secret life opens a floodgate in the old man, and before long, Joey has become his somewhat unwilling apprentice, though his reluctance turns to enthusiasm as he is inducted into the many mysteries and traditions of the ancient brethren of grave-robbers. Kraus takes us on a narrative tour of the science of putrefaction and decay, the economics of the funeral industry, the history of the Resurrection Men who plundered English and Scottish graves to fill the dissection rooms of hungry medical colleges.
But most of all, Joey learns about his mother's secret past, the strange circumstance that brought her and his father together and the tragedy that drove them apart, and as he unlocks his own history, Joey begins to master his bullies at school and the relationships in his life.
Rotters is an epic, 450 pages long, and it is as suspenseful and masterfully told as it is gruesome and terrifying. Kraus conveys the full horror and beauty of our bodies' inevitable return to the soil without playing for cheap thrills or easy gross-outs. You'd be hard pressed to find a coming-of-age story as satisfying as this in any YA novel. That Kraus manages this tour-de-force in the midst of liquefying corpses and maggoty dirt is a marvel itself, and marks him out as a writer whose future books I'll anticipate with impatient pleasure.
Emil Ferris’s graphic novel debut My Favorite Thing is Monsters may just be the best graphic novel of 2017, and is certainly the best debut I’ve read in the genre, and it virtually defies summarizing: Karen is a young girl in a rough Chicago neighborhood is obsessed with monsters and synthesia, is outcast among her friends, is queer, is torn apart by the assassination of Martin Luther King, by her mother’s terminal illness, by the murder of the upstairs neighbor, a beautiful and broken Holocaust survivor, by her love for her Vietnam-draft-eligible brother and her love of fine art.
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While all of Neal Stephenson’s — always excellent — novels share common themes and tropes, they’re also told in many different modes, from the stately, measured pace of the Baroque Cycle books to the madcap energy of Snow Crash to the wildly experimental pacing of Seveneves. With The Rise and Fall of DODO, a novel co-written with his Mongoliad collaborator, the novelist Nicole Galland, we get all the modes of Stephenson, and all the tropes, and it is glorious.
Learning a new language will give your resume an upgrade, sure, but it will also provide a huge cognitive boost for mental tasks outside of translation and conversation. Bilingual brains have been shown to be better at handling multiple concurrent tasks, and gaining fluency in a new tongue is an amazing way to improve memory, […]
If you struggle to get a good night’s rest, consider replacing your pillows before dropping hundreds on a new mattress. You can give your tired neck a break with a 2-pack of memory foam pillows, available now in the Boing Boing Store.Each of these pillows is stuffed with cooling polyurethane foam that molds to your […]
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