Tuesday, October 29, 2019

Review: Blood Sugar

Blood Sugar Blood Sugar by Daniel Kraus
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

If you want an idea of how gross this book is, the first person narrator has a case of untreated pink-eye, and that’s just the start. But hey, it’s in addition to being completely disgusting it’s also depressing as hell.

I’m selling the hell out of this one, aren’t I? The crazy thing is that it’s a very good book, one of the best I’ve read this year. But it’s not exactly a joy ride.

Robbie is a complete outcast that is hated by everyone in town. He lives in a decaying house that’s filled with junk, trash, bugs, and mice, and his only friends are three young kids. He decides to finally get revenge on the community by lacing Halloween candy with drugs and razor blades, and he wants the kids to help. However, Robbie isn’t exactly a criminal mastermind, and his minions aren’t much better.

Jody’s mother has mental health issues so he’s pretty much raising himself as well as the young mute foster kid, Midge, that his mom took in for the money. Unfortunately, Jody’s ideas of health and hygiene leave a lot to be desired. Jody’s schoolmate Dag comes from a seemingly solid middle class family, but while she may have nicer clothes and a better diet, she has her own issues.

The thing about this book is that it’s so far off from your usual narrative that it’s hard to even describe. On the surface it’s about a lowlife enlisting three at-risk children to help him poison kids on Halloween so Robbie should be the villain of a story told to us by Jody. However, as the plot unfolds and we learn more about the backgrounds of each character you realize that not everything is as it seems. Robbie may be a disgusting dirtbag who is out to kill some innocent trick-or-treaters, but gradually you learn that he’s got a tragic backstory of his own so that you can’t help but feel some sympathy towards him by the end.

There’s also some very clever things going on in regards to the narration and structure of the book. Most of the story come from Jody’s first person account, and since he’s a not-too-bright kid who is a poster boy for neglect his account is mainly made up slang and references to the Lord of the Rings movies he loves so it takes some translation to understand what Jody is even talking about. We also get some interludes that are letters that Robbie writes to various people, and it quickly becomes clear that he has his own problems. There’s also some letters from Dag, and while she’s obviously the smartest of the crew we learn what led her to befriend these people who are so clearly not part of the same social or economic class as her.

It’s great writing that establishes the different voices, and it also pays off as each revelation makes the story become clear. Eventually we understand everyone, even the mute Midge, and their tales are all heartbreaking in one way or another. The book left me feeling sickened, but it wasn’t the gross and filthy details that did it. It was the way these young people were all abandoned or let down so that they ended up in these circumstances while no one around them seemed to notice or care.

OK, so some of it was the gross and filthy details. Seriously, I was glad that  I've had a tetanus shot recently while reading, but it's totally worth it.

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