Review Blog

Jun 27 2011

The dead I know by Scot Gardner

cover image

Allen and Unwin, 2011. ISBN 9781742373843.
(Age 14+) Highly recommended. 'Aaron Rowe walks in his sleep. He has 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.'(Publisher)
In Aaron Rowe, Scot Gardner has created a memorable and complex character, one I will not forget. I found myself sympathising with this young boy who is a dropout from school. He is looked down by the local townspeople because he lives in a caravan park with his Mam an eccentric woman who forgets things. She is becoming increasingly difficult, often injuring herself and becoming dangerous to leave alone. Not yet an adult, Aaron finds himself in the role of a carer, uncertain of what to do. Life is becoming very difficult for him and to make matters worse, he has begun to have strange dreams and to sleep walk.
Fortunately for Aaron, John Barton, the funeral director, sees potential in him, and is willing to employ him in his funeral parlour. Barton is a kind man, who encourages Aaron to speak and who supports him when his Mam is taken to hospital with a broken arm.
As I followed Aaron in his journey to learn about the funeral industry, which was quite fascinating, other intriguing mysteries emerged from Gardner's skilful writing. What was going on with the druggie family in the caravan next door and who killed one of them? Why is Aaron dreaming of blood and sleep walking?
This is an engrossing and well told story that will appeal to teenagers. The themes of death, responsibility, murder and friendship are challenging but very positive and life affirming. The funeral industry and the deaths that Aaron encounters are handled sensitively, but it is Aaron's coming of age and dealing with the mysteries that surround him that will enthral readers. I think this would make a great class text or literature circle novel. Teacher's notes by Fran Knight are available at the publisher's site.
Certainly it is a book not to be missed.
Pat Pledger

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