The Dead I Know is a gripping, emotional rollercoaster of a book The story centres around Aaron Rowe, who has left school to train as a funeral director with John Barton, owner and operator of JKB Funerals Aaron lives with his Mam in a caravan Mam is not mentally sound and it makes Aaron s life very difficult, especially because he loves her so much Their relationship is a complicated one and, without slipping in a spoiler, not what I expected.Aaron sleepwalks, having nightmares that seem like memories, and often wakes up in strange places The novel focusses on a period of about a month in Aaron s life, where the nightmares are becoming real and he is struggling to cope He slowly builds a relationship with Skye, John s younger daughter, and the brother sister relationship they have offers him a safe haven indeed the whole Barton family accepts him for who he is, without judgement, and they become his rock in a swirling maelstrom.This is a novel about change, about growing up and about acceptance both of oneself and by others.I found the characters in this novel real and believable, which unnerved me a little I am not accustomed to feeling as attached to a central character as I was to Aaron His story is utterly compelling Gardner never wastes words, but paints raw and visceral pictures with his language.This is an intense reading experience, but well worth the effort because it is ultimately a story of hope. This review is also posted on my blog, In The Good Books.I had no idea what to think of The Dead I Know before or even as I started All I knew is that it was a recent Aussie release, and that was good enough for me Though, by the end, I was pleasantly surprised.There s a lot of mystery shrouding Aaron in the beginning He s stoic, and initially doesn t give much away through either his dialogue or first person narration We understand him better once we get a look at his home life, and sympathise with him While it s heart wrenching to see his life begin to fall apart, it s also inspiring to watch how he grows and develops from this.The writing style was simple and engaging It easily evoked Aaron s voice and helped the reader to become invested in his well being.The background characters namely the Barton family were realistically developed and fleshed out John s almost fatherly role in Aaron s life created a hopeful dynamic, and Skye s relationship with him was in equal parts adorable and touching Something about her character was really likeable it was probably her name Aaron began to feel like a part of their family a second family contrasting the state of his real one.The mysterious element to the story what Aaron s sleepwalking, almost crazy mother, and strange recurring dreams all meant was well done, with suspense building until the mystery is finally unravelled It isn t hard to piece it together yourself first, but it s worth sticking around to see Aaron s emotional reaction to it and how he bounces back.Overall, an short and enjoyable read that I d recommend to fans of darker YA.I give The Dead I Know a 4 out of 5. Five years ago when I read a book I always had a pencil in my hand and made notes and grabbed quotes as I read As I have been reading and electronically, now when I do read a physical book I find I just have lost that habit But this book was so compelling that I stopped on a number of occasions to write down quotes to share with others This is the first of Scot Gardner s books to be released in Canada It was an amazing read I literally read it in less than 24 hours and could not stop talking about it and think about it for days afterwards It is an incredible read.Aaron Rowe is a young man who has had trouble fitting in at school He is now beginning an apprenticeship to work as a funeral director On one of his first days there is a motorcycle accident and he finds the head some distance from the body and he reflects to himself I became aware, as John closed the door, that although we d been conducting the same search, the policemen and I had been looking for different things and for different reasons They were hunting for mortal remains to finish a job I was hunting the still countenance of someone s son, perhaps their brother, maybe even their father, to bring him a final grace By giving him grace, I found some of my own The police protected the living, ambulance officers protected the injured and we protected the dead All as it should be He likes his new work and seems to have a natural knack for it But Aaron is suffering from nightmares and sleep walking and both are getting progressively worse As they are getting worse, so is his mother she is slipping into dementia and Aaron does not want to lose her and her presence in his life He thinks to himself With that fragment of conversation, I knew the scales had tipped Mam had gone and probably wouldn t find her way back Perhaps she d gone home She d done her work She d schooled me in life the way an institution never could She d made me think long and hard about everything and anything, answered every question I d ever asked and many that I hadn t She d fed me, washed me and clothed me until I could do it for myself Until I could do it for her She d grown old and now she was growing young again, all innocence and hugs It seemed to have happened so fast, but if I stopped to think about it there had been years of incremental decline, faithfully denied by us both until paf, like a blown globe she d finally let go Until that moment, when I d let go too Again, later in the book, he reflects on the turmoil in his life and nightmares and the peace of his new work The smell of air freshener flowers had become linked in my mind to the cool stillness of death, and death was my new best friend someone I d only just met but felt I d known forever And so begins the tale of Aaron.The characters in this story are amazing Aaron, his new boss John, and John s very precocious daughter Skye Between their interactions with the living and the dead it makes for a wonderful tale.In the last 5 years I have read 800 books and this is the number 2 fiction book in that time The first being I Hunt Killers by Barry Lyga It was so good that I bought and read the only ebook available in North America by Scot Gardner the day after I finished this book On a side note, I lent this book to my mother in law after reading it She works in the funeral industry and she could not put it down and also read it in one day I cannot think of higher recommendations than the two of us, so different but both unable to stop reading So pick it up and give it a try The Dead I Know just might surprise you in ways than one.Read the review and with links to other reviews of books by the authors on my blog Book Reviews and More And also an author profile and interview with Scot Gardner. Favourite Quote There was the unknown, the dark, the cold and the emptiness to contend with out there, but those concepts are all relative Cold compared to what A dead hand Dark compared to what Unblinking eyes At times the ocean seemed full beside my emptiness At times it was the one knowable thing in my world.The Dead I Know is a story that comes together like pieces of a puzzle It is dark, mysterious and refreshingly different read.This story is so different from what I expected but in a good way I wasn t expecting it to be such a gritty and emotional read There are many scene in this book that made want to hug Aaron, the main character, and say it is going to be okay This story shows how hard life can be sometimes especially when you are trying to do it on your own But that being said they were also some very funny moments and overall it was had somewhat of a hopeful feel.Another thing I enjoyed about this book is I never knew what to expect It is a story that constantly surprised me I was completely stunned about Aaron s past It just unravelled wonderfully However, I did struggle with the style of writing at the beginning It probably took me about 30 or so pages to get use it Also there was also a few squeamish scenes.My favourite thing about this story is the unique bunch of characters especially Aaron He is a multi layered character and it doesn t take long to become emotional invested in him And the secondary characters Mr Barton and Skye were very entertaining.Overall, The Dead I Know is a fast paced and compulsive read I recommend for this fans of contemps who like them a little gritty and raw and also to male readers Thanks to Allen Unwin for providing me with a copy Powerful, haunting, and absolutely unforgettable, The Dead I Know is not Scot Gardner s first novel, or even the first one to win him recognition, but it s the first one of his books published in Canada, and one that you simply can t afford to miss It s a tour the force examination of the always difficult subject of death, grief and coping with the loss of a loved one Above all, though, it s a heart wrenching insight into one boy s tragic life and a deeply affecting, thought provoking and unsettling look at his psyche Aaron Rowe lives with his grandma, Mam, in a caravan park He just got hired for a three month trial as a funeral director at JKB Funerals, and is working hard, doing everything in his power to prove to his boss that he s the right man for the job The dead don t affect him much, as he doesn t feel much in general He s numb and withdrawn, and he doesn t speak a whole lot He keeps to himself There s a lot on Aaron s mind these days His grandma isn t acting normal, her mental state getting worse with every passing day On top of that, Aaron is a somnambulist and his sleepwalking has been getting way out of hand Mentally exhausted, confused, and scared, Aaron has to find a way to get his life back under control, before someone possibly himself gets hurt At only 200 pages long The Dead I Know is a fairly quick read, but also one that will grip you from the first to final page I honestly don t think you will be able to put this book down I know I couldn t I m not big on reading back blurbs, they re usually of a spoiler than a teaser, so I try my best to avoid them I d rather take my chances with a book and go into reading it blindfolded When I sat down with this novel I had no expectations what so ever, besides a vague idea that this might be one of those light and amusing paranormal reads based on the cover Boy, was I wrong From the opening lines this book delivers nothing but an exquisite literary performance and beautifully crafted, disquieting plot line It reads like an adult contemporary novel than your typical YA it s as far from light and fluffy as it gets , and it prays on the most basic human fears of death, mental illness, and being absolutely and utterly alone This book affected me on a very personal level, as my own grand grandma died from dementia, and I know exactly what it means to take care of a person suffering from mental disease, how physically demanding and emotionally draining it is, and just how extremely powerless and terrified it makes you feel Scot Gardner did a phenomenal job conveying all these emotions and realities of a dementia affected household, he brought tears to my eyes and left me speechless When I turned the last page I didn t put the book down and simply moved on with my every day life, I sat there hugging it close to my heart, thinking about both the storyline and my own past I was deeply impressed with the author s ability to tackle the subject of death, grief, mental sickness, and growing up without parents with such exceptional honesty, sensitivity and thoughtfulness This story feels very intimate, it s full of small moments and situations that have a strong emotional impact on the reader The narrative voice is all too real and convincing, to the degree that you almost feel embarrassed Like you re reading someone else s diary or spying on a stranger through a keyhole I also loved the construction of the plot you never fully understand what s going on until the very end of the book There are clues and pieces of information scattered throughout the story, then there are also Aaron s feverish dreams and blackouts, but it s all very vague and mysterious I liked that The tension and the heavy, dark atmosphere, combined with the concise, well thought out plot line, made this book a deliciously readable treat I can t recommend this book enough It s not a long read and I really hope you ll find time to squeeze it in your reading schedules, it s definitely a must read Brilliant This book is beautifully written, fantastically structured and utterly compelling I couldn t put it down Scot Gardner s writing just keeps getting better and better.A recent spate of YA novels with intensely unpleasant teenage male protagonists had made me almost wary of picking up yet another novel about a seventeen year old male but Gardner s protagonist Aaron Rowe is a compassionate, honourable, complex and deeply endearing character. I got off to a bad start with Scot Gardner s writing by reading Happy As Larry first, when I should have started off by reading this novel instead I love the cover of The Dead I Know and I love the dark premise of a teen boy undertaking an apprenticeship as a Funeral Director We meet Aaron as he is being interviewed, accepted by his new boss John Barton and beginning his transformation with a haircut and new clothing and I took to the quiet, tall and dark, sparsely worded boy straight away.The writing is clean and borders deceptively on being simple which balances the sometimes hard to take scenes which trace the day to day activities of a funeral parlour perfectly If the writing had been harsher, sombre or had tried to be too over quirky, it would have tipped the balance over, so Scot Gardner strikes a good balance there I loved learning about the trade and it is executed in a very tasteful and respectful nature so one can see the love and the care behind the job of a funeral director, as opposed to the gore and guts As we witness Aaron and John drive around to collect and prepare the Dearly Departed, there is a beautiful luminosity to these scenes which shine with life as opposed to death.I also adore each and every character Aaron himself, his boss John Barton and especially John Barton s daughter, the little firecracker Skye, who provides the perfect a question a second foil against Aaron s almost voiceless one.Overall, a very interesting slice of life story What doesn t work as well for me is the dramatic arc, involving Aaron s flashbacks and the mystery behind his nightmares and sleepwalking I found it too diffused and when the pieces finally came together, the impact didn t reverberate enough into the present to justify it being touted as the Big Mystery I would have been happy with Aaron as the morose Emo Boy without need for the Big Back story I don t know maybe because it had too many shades of Dexter in it, which I am way too familiar with, it just didn t have that punch for me.If this book was a funeral service, I think I expected to be moved and to be openly weeping, but all I did was stand back, feel a bit shaken and think well, thanks for the good times and that was it On both occasions Gardner has disappointed me with the overall flatness of his plot execution with throwaway climaxes that don t do anything for me.The aggravating thing is that I know he is not short on talent, and he does do something for me ahem, that would be his chacterisation , so whatever he puts out next, I will be reading it and I will quietly stalk him. Aaron Rowe Walks In His Sleep And Haunted By Dreams He Can T Explain And Memories He Can T Recover Death Doesn T Scare Him His New Job With A Funeral Director May Even Be His Salvation But If He Doesn T Discover The Truth About His Hidden Past Soon, He May Fall Asleep One Night And Never Wake Up In This Dark And Witty Psychological Drama About Survival, Aaron Finds That Making Peace With The Dead May Be Easier Than Coming To Terms With The Living Wow, I really enjoyed this book, what a fabulous new voice, with a unique and surprising tale It was hard to remind myself that this was intended as a Teen Novel Despite the lead character being one, I never felt that I wasn t reading a serious adult novel As someone who herself applied to work as a coronary assistant at the age of 16 and was turned away due to my age, I was fascinated with Aaron s ability to face the dead, and his feelings around them This book was quite different to what I had expected, with characters that I truly cared about I did take a while to place the age of the undertaker and his wife she seemed so homely and kind , I felt the need to see her in my mind as late 50 s which was unlikely, as the daughter was younger, and thought Aaron s Mam looked older than her grandmother so I had to adjust my mental picture, when I came to that line However, that would be the only problem I had with the story I was deeply moved by the undertaker, John, taking what to all outward appearances would have been a troubled, and probably troublesome boy under his wing, and offering him trust and the opportunity to shine in his own quiet way.On being called to the scene of a motor cycle accident to pick up a body spread rather far and wide here are Aaron s thoughts as they finally secure their client in the back of the hearse, for transport back to their offices I became aware, as John closed the door, that although we d been conducting the same search, the policemen and I had been looking for different things, and for different reasons They were hunting mortal remains to finish a job, I was hunting the still countenance of someone s son, perhaps their brother, maybe even their father, to bring him a final grace By giving him grace, I found some of my own The police protected the living, ambulance offers protected the injured and we protected the dead All as it should be This book is a real gem, and I look forward to from this author. A finished copy was provided by the publisher for review.I didn t know what to expect from this one I actually thought it was about a medium someone who speaks to the dead , but I was wrong The description is very simple yet it shows there s something than what is on the surface Aaron being a funeral director in training is correct What I didn t expect was the truth that finally came out in the end.Aaron s nightmares are vivid and scary..Violent and morbid I couldn t understand what it was Here is this teenage boy trying to live, trying to make sense of his own life Surviving in a trailer park with his sick grandmother is no way to live I commend him for seeking out a job It s different than most books, since his true horror isn t revealed until later on and then all the pieces are unraveled and then you get that Ahah moment where it all fits together.The writing is simple and doesn t exaggerate The main character is heavily flawed and in doing so, many other characters reach out to help him, particularly his boss John and his own family Skye is a wonderful character who brought a little life back into Aaron Their relationship was sweet and you can t help but smile at Skye s questions and observations especially when she nicknames him Robot.
Scot Gardner wasn t born reading and writing in fact, he left school in year eleven to undertake an apprenticeship in gardening with the local council He has worked as a waiter, masseur, delivery truck driver, home dad, counselor, and musician These days he spends half the year writing and half the year on the road talking to people about his books and the craft of writing.
- 208 pages
- The Dead I Know
- Scot Gardner
- 09 June 2019 Scot Gardner