Today I am excited to bring you a review of Scowler by Daniel Kraus and join with Random House in inviting you and your family to take part in:
Screen Free Week April 29- May 5
Screen-Free Week is an annual event in which parents, children, teachers, and others across the country turn off screen media (TV, video games, computers, cell phones, etc.) and celebrate the magic of being unplugged.
Unplug embrace life, family the outdoors and books!
Imagine your father is a monster. Would that mean there are monsters inside you, too? Nineteen-year-old Ry Burke, his mother, and little sister scrape by for a living on their dying family farm. Ry wishes for anything to distract him from the grim memories of his father’s physical and emotional abuse. Then a meteorite falls from the sky, bringing with it not only a fragment from another world but also the arrival of a ruthless man intent on destroying the entire family. Soon Ry is forced to defend himself by resurrecting a trio of imaginary childhood protectors: kindly Mr. Furrington, wise Jesus, and the bloodthirsty Scowler.
Scowler without a doubt was the scariest and darkest book I have ever read in the young adult genre. It makes I Hunt Killers look like Sesame Street. It’s Stephen King meets Silence of the Lambs and it held me captive from page one. Disturbing imagery, and heart-racing scenes had me completely spellbound as I searched for closure from this nightmare. This was a thrilling ride and I enjoyed every dark, gritty, heart pounding moment.
The tale begins when we meet Ry Burke, his little sister Ella and their mom. Their farm is in shambles and the fields dormant since their father was sent to jail nine years ago after one of his abusive episodes went too far and ended with Ry being hospitalized. The farm is up for sale, money is tight but still Ry doesn’t want to let go of his home. Meteorites fall from the sky bringing a monster to their door and the tale that unfolds forces Ry to resurrect his imaginary friends from childhood to protect him once again.
At this point in my review I usually describe the characters but I think it’s important that you discover the quirks and personalities of Ry, his mom and little Ella for yourself. I will say that they are fleshed out and you have a very strong sense of who they are and the events that carved them into the characters we meet before the meteorite hits. At the age of nine three toy figurines come to life and aid Ry during one of the darkest moments of his childhood. They are a kindly British chap named Mr. Furrington, a Gumby Jesus figure handed out in Sunday school and a handmade figure made from metal and cloth dubbed Scowler. At nineteen he no longer hears or plays with his childhood toys but as events unfold he must once again call on his imaginary friends.
Scowler is a violent, dark, gritty, suspenseful tale that sent shivers down my spine and left me with images I shall never forget. The tale unfolds slowly with occasional flashbacks that help us understand Ry, his figurines and the father that tormented them all. The tale unfolds over the course of several days both preceding the meteorite and after. The family lives on a remote farm far from their closest neighbors leaving them isolated as the events unfold. Krauss crafts a story that reminded me of a Stephen King novel from his writing style to imagery. It is brutal, violent, and hand-wringing the type of book you cannot set down as the suspense and drama play out. While this is dubbed young-adult it pushes the envelope with its language and imagery. Unspeakable things happen at this farm and it’s not for the faint of heart. Through characters and events the author does a wonderful job of foreshadowing as he builds towards climatic scenes. The toys Ry uses and the explanation of what they represent to Ry was brilliantly done. It was a fascinating look into the human mind’s ability to cope with the unimaginable.
Fans of horror and suspenseful mind-blowing thrillers will enjoy Scowler. Not for the faint of heart Kraus delivers a spine-chilling novel you won’t soon forget. This was my first experience with the author and after reading Scowler I discovered he wrote a book called Rotters that from reviews promises classic horror at its finest. I will definitely be picking it up.
Four and half cups of espresso out of five
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