By: Daniel Kraus
Publisher: Delacorte Press
Publication Date: April 2011
Reviewed by: Amy Lignor
Review Date: April 19, 2011
Joey Crouch is an ‘odd’ teenager. When our book begins, he’s sitting in his own home with a…feeling. Something inside of him tells him that this is the day his mother is going to die. Joey follows her around the house waiting to see if a grease fire will take her out - or, perhaps, she’ll fall in the bathroom and that will be ‘all she rote.’ But, unfortunately, Mom goes grocery shopping and, while jaywalking, is hit by a bus. And that’s only the beginning of Joey’s problems.
Placed into the home of his best friend Boris for a couple of weeks, Joey tries desperately to find a way to stay in the only home he’s ever known. He has no desire to be shipped to his father - a man he’s never even met. All he knows about his father is the presence of a scar on his mother’s neck, which she never talked about. Joey and his mother have always been a team but, now, Joey’s life is going to be so disrupted he’ll never know what hit him.
Soon Child Services has tracked down good, old Dad, and Joey is put on a train. During his journey he goes from the amazingly comforting vibe of big city Chicago, through suburbs, to a place where the only sign of life are the tractors rusting in barren, broken-down yards. This is it. This is home. This is Bloughton, Iowa, population 4,000.
Joey is already sickened by the fact that there is only one High School, and when he meets his father (who doesn’t come to pick him up at the train), and sees the horrifically dirty, disgusting house he has to live in, Joey is crushed. Not only that, but when he begins school and gets on the wrong side of the ‘school jock,‘ not to mention falls for the beautiful girl with Egyptian eyes that happens to date said jock, Joey’s life absolutely crumbles.
His father is known around town as the ‘Garbageman,’ so Joey is automatically on the bottom of the food chain when it comes to school. No one wants to help him, be near him, or even smell him…and Joey wants desperately to return to Chicago to his best friend’s house. As the story moves along, Joey loses his best friend, and ends up forming an odd relationship with the man he’s supposed to call Dad. Not only is Dad not a garbage man, per se, he’s part of a group called the Diggers, and what they dig up is beyond disgusting.
In the footsteps of R.L. Stine, who writes horror novels that have set the YA world on fire, this author also covers the extremely macabre. This story is not only a creepy father-son relationship, it is also set in a dark, mysterious, frightening world that readers will definitely have to own the courage to visit.
Quill Says: The writing is masterful but, to be honest, you really need the heart and soul of a true ‘horror-fan’ to embark on this deathly, uncompromising journey into Joey Crouch’s world.