I picked this up to read because it was a Prinz honor book for 2010. Part way through I began to wonder why the Prinz committee was recommending it. Now I wonder if I need to do something to change my world view. (It's a very good book and worth an award, but you need to be aware of some of its "issues.")
I began doubting the suitability of this book when it grossed me out. About the same time I realized that the prose itself would present a difficulty for many YA readers. So, I began to search--is this a book that will really be recommended for YA reading? I double checked the members of the Prinz committee and found that they were primarily high school librarians. I trust librarians and if they recommend a book then I listen. I also discussed this with one of my most trusted middle school teacher friends. She was most interested it and said that many of her students would love such a book. At her school kids would be allowed to read such a book with parent permission. Many parents are happy to extend such.
The book is well written, in a Gothic tradition. There are mad scientists, insane asylums, and questionable characters galore! Mixed with the gore and dark, dangerous adventure is an underlying plot that compels the reader through the book.
I'm still having trouble with the gross factor, but then I took a few minutes to sit with my son as he played Special Forces: Dark Opps. I'm convinced--today's kids are accustomed to the violence and mayhem. I just need to get over it.
But, if you are going to recommend this to others be aware that a student would need to be a pretty strong reader (Lexile 990) and willing to read pretty graphic "yuck."