Book Review: Scowler by Daniel Kraus

Ryan Burke’s father is a monster.  That’s why he’s rotting away in some prison, far away from their home.  Meanwhile, Ry, his mother, and his little sister are struggling to eek out a living on their failing farm.  Ry can’t escape the horrible memories of his father’s abuse, and when a meteorite falls, change is inevitable, and danger is near.  Ry uses his childhood totems to help defend himself against the evil threatening to take his family away: Mr. Furrington, Jesus, and Scowler.

Daniel Kraus’s novel is a taut, tense horror novel that will either entrap readers or scare them away.  A weird, mostly compelling story about a boy coming-of-age with the very real fear that he is a monster like his father, this one is overly long and gets bogged down in its own attention to detail.  Still, it’s a successfully scary story.

Definitely on the weird side, this story doesn’t pull any punches.  Ryan’s life is pretty crappy, even now that his horrendous, psychopathic and violent father is locked up.  He’s constantly haunted by the abuse his family suffered, and he feels trapped as the man of the house.  This is enough to lend the novel its tension, but the countdown to the meteorite crash and the subsequent terror of the return of his father ramps up the suspense.

Unrelenting and sort of brutal, this isn’t a title that is going to work for all readers.  Fans of horror novels that take their time and set the scene will find something here to love.  Those who want a whip-fast pace will be slightly less thrilled with the book’s meticulous attention to detail.  The book has literary quality for sure, which isn’t what all readers of horror are looking for.

Recommended for mature horror readers who are looking for a good bridge book to adult titles.

Scowler by Daniel Kraus. Delacorte Books for Young Readers: 2013. Library copy read for the 2013 Cybils.

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