The headline says it all, so let’s just dive in shall we . . .
Daniel Kraus is the author of several YA titles, including Rotters. Rotters is a deeply deeply disturbing book about a teenage boy who ends up grave robbing after his mother dies and he goes to live with a father he has never known. Like I said, deeply disturbing. Like Wringer or The Monstrumologist, Kraus does a modern day Stephen King for teens and makes the King of Scream proud. You will be freaked out in that satisfying way that comes from reading a deeply disturbing book assuming dark is what you’re going for.
Kraus does a couple of amazing things in Rotters. 1) He takes a very sympathetic and likable main character, Joey, and just drags this kid through the ringer and in doing so, takes his main character to very dark places. It’s such a bold move as a storyteller to create such a dark, compelling arc and hope that the reader will stand by your main character. 2) In the depth of his darkness, Joey creates a plan to get back at a school bully that is so disturbing it will give you nightmares. It’s hard to bring a character back from a place like this, and yet Kraus sort of does. Well, at least he gives you the hope that Joey might possibly come out of this situation okay.
The other thing that is truly fascinating about Rotters is the world building that occurs. In fantasy, authors have to develop intricate worlds with hierarchies, customs and sometimes even language. Kraus ends up doing the same thing in this modern day gothic tale of gravediggers. The grave digging world has its own lore and legends and an almost mafia like code of conduct. You read along and wonder if this type of grave digging society really exists.
I read dark stuff: Koontz, King, serial killers and more. But Rotters, it really stays with you. It has been well over a year since I have read it and it just stays with you. In my reading world, that’s a good thing.
Here’s a link to Random Buzzers, the very cool Random House website for teens where Daniel Kraus talks Rotters. I highly recommend that you make sure your teens know about Random Buzzers.
2. Hostile Questions
Kraus is on the editorial staff for Booklist, which is cool in itself. And here he does a regular feature called Hostile Questions where he interviews the cool kids with his own unique, twisted voice. His plan is simple, he will interview these authors in a “aggressive manner” and promises that the authors will “love every minute of it” (http://americanlibrariesmagazine.org/news/ala/hostile-questions-engage-writers-new-booklist-online-interview-series). It is, to say the least, entertaining.
Just the other day some librarians and I began having a Twitter chatter about horror books and – gasp – Daniel Kraus himself chimed in (authors always get bonus points with me when they engage with librarians and readers). So I asked him to name some good horror books for teens and he immediately led me to the online link to the Booklist of the Top 10 Horror Fiction for Youth. It should be noted that Rotters is, not surprisingly, on it. But of course he knows what’s on Booklist, he is an editor and reviewer there. I am excited every time I read a review and see that it is him doing the review. He recently reviewed Quarantine by Lex Thomas, which our own Stephanie Wilkes gave 5 stars. So you see, we are doing something right – Daniel Kraus agreed with us
What Stephanie said: “The book is frighteningly realistic and I was completely chilled to the bone while I read.”
What Karen said: “Lord of the Flies mixed with Trapped/Variant but on steroids”
What Daniel Kraus said: “Take Michael Grant’s Gone (2008) and Veronica Roth’s Divergent (2011), rattle them in a cage until they’re ready to fight to the death, and you’ll have something like this nightmarish debut.”
4. He engages his audience via social media
In my universe, authors are rockstars. They create the product that I am trying to get into the hands of my teens. Imagine how epic it would be to a teen to have one of their favorite authors respond to them, even if it is something as simple as a Tweet. Teens live in a world where they think adults don’t care, so it sends a positive – and important – message for an author to take the time to respond. It sends a simple message: you have value. (There is more of this thought in Don’t Underestimate the Value of Twitter and Relational Reading Revolution).
To paraphrase from the RRR post: We live in a culture that overly values celebrity and puts too much emphasis on goals that a very small percentage of teens will ever achieve. When authors interact with teens, they help de-emphasize this goal; they make reading relational and humanize authors. In effect, they narrow the gap between reader and writer and, in doing so, teens are more motivated to read. Or in Kraus’ case they read because they are afraid he may come after them with a chainsaw . . . I kid, I kid. Sorta. But speaking of chainsaws . . .
I obviously follow Kraus on Twitter (@DanielDKraus). Some of my Twitter feeds I follow because they are informational, others I do so because they are entertaining. Kraus is both. You know that someone who came up with Rotters has to be a little bit twisted, and his Tweets often are. He recently had a series of bizarre Tweets with author A. S. King involving chainsaws. On Mother’s Day. They brought me great entertainment. That exchange was reason enough to love him. Or fear him. Or both.
- He makes movies.
- He writes for several magazines and online resources including Maxim and Cosmopolitan.
Let’s face it – we’re always looking for a way to get teen boys reading. Kraus can help you do that. He makes reading cool.
The bottom line is this, I love anyone who helps me be successful at my goal. My goal may seem simple, but it’s not. There are so many challenges to getting teens into the library and reading books, but libraries (and stories) change lives – so I fight the good fight. It is so much easier to do with authors like Daniel Kraus writing good books and helping you find them.
Find out more at Daniel Kraus’s website.