I received an advance review copy of this book from Star Book Tours for review. I requested it purely based on the cover and title - I didn't know anything about it, but I'm kind of morbid so I hoped it would be as good as it looked. I wasn't disappointed.
I didn't really know what to expect... zombies? I was hopeful, I'll admit. I love zombies, and if this one contained them, I had no doubt they would be awesome. But no zombies here, and the more I read, the more I appreciated this for the realistic story it was. This is the story of a mostly normal boy who gets thrust into this very unconventional situation and life.
Here's the gist: Joey Crouch's mother dies, and he is sent to live with the absentee father he never knew, in a small town where hostility reigns, and Joey finds understanding in the most unlikely quarter one can think of - the Diggers... Grave robbers.
I was hooked right from the start. The first part of the book, the fear and the surety and the paranoia, and specifically the specifying, drew me right into to Joey's life and I wanted to know more, and to find out what happens to this boy. His life goes is completely out of control and he has nobody and nothing at all he can rely on, and I found it fascinating how he dealt with - or failed to deal with - this new life he's got. His struggles were what kept me glued to the book. He was nothing if not real. His mistakes and compulsions frightened me on his behalf. I love an underdog, so I wanted him to persevere and prevail against those against him... and against himself.
I loved the fact that the students at Bloughton High were realistic. They may have been a little cliche, actually, but teenagers ARE cliche. The jocks are jocklike, the snooty mean girl is snooty and mean (and a girl), the outcasts are outcast. But the devil is in the details with these kids, and I thought the portrayal was great. Just enough to read into them and make them more than cliche without needing it to be spelled out in big bold letters. I loved Foley. He may have been my favorite character. I wished that he was a bigger part of the book, actually.
I also liked the Diggers. They were a varied and interesting group, and I loved their independent camaraderie. I love the history and the mostly noble feel of these men, and the sacrifices they make for this calling. I was fascinated by the way that the Diggers behaved among the dead, especially The Resurrectionist, as it was such a contrast to his behavior with the living. I would have loved more history and lore and more detail regarding the Diggers and their profession, but since this was Joey's story, and he's a 16 year old, I know why this would have been a mite tedious for him to relay.
I appreciated the unflinching way that the dead and that death were portrayed. I liked that there was a certain reverence and respect there, even among these men out to pry valuables from someone's cold dead fingers. There was quite a bit of gore and grime and muck, among other foul things, so this is probably best not read by those weak of stomach or virgin of ears (so to speak). But I thought that these details added a lot to the book - a kind of reality and truth that it might otherwise be lacking.
I really enjoyed the writing in this story, and many passages were gorgeously descriptive and evocative. I loved the contrast between these parts and the gritty and almost irreverent brutal honesty of the rest of the story. This one pulls no punches regarding bullying or loss, or about growing up and finding one's own path either. I really enjoyed it. I will definitely be on the lookout for more from this author.