Together We Rot / Skyla Arndt / Book Review

Wil Greene's mother is missing, and she knows the Clarke family has something to do with it. She'd stake her life on it. She's lost friends. She's lost more-than friends. But she knows what she knows, whether the police believe her or not. A year later, the case is cold--and, according to the police, a shut-and-dry runaway situation, nothing more. But Wil knows that's not true.

Elwood Clarke is just trying to hold it together. A year ago, he lost his best friend when she lost her mother, and his social circle has only dwindled since. Everyone else has big plans ahead of them--college, for one--but no such future is in store for Elwood. He's the heir to his father's church, after all. He couldn't leave town. Not now. Not ever. Not when he has to dedicate his life to the Garden of Adam.

But just days from his eighteenth birthday, Elwood discovers he was never meant to be his father's successor. He was always meant to be his father's sacrifice. Suddenly on the run, Elwood and Wil reconnect, and they strike a deal: he'll help her get the evidence she needs to find her mother, and she'll help him escape town with his life. 


This book had just the right amount of creepy elements, and yet I didn't love it. It was good. Don't get me wrong. But it didn't quite strike me as memorable. I won't be lingering on this story.


  • Creepy Forest: Anyone who's read my reviews before will know that I'm a sucker for a creepy forest, and this book did not disappoint. There's a perpetual stench of rot hanging over this small town. The forest is particularly ravenous for wildlife, it seems. This sets everything off-kilter from the start. Creepy crawlies writhe at every corner -- in other worlds, the atmosphere here is skin-crawlingly great. 
  • Concrete Cult: So many of the YA "cults" I have read left the actual atrocity of the cult up to the imagination. Sure, you can fill in the blanks, but sometimes the leaps have to be pretty far since there's no evidence other than bad vibes. Here, that is certainly not the case. This cultish behavior isn't vague speculation and rumors, what-ifs. Right off the bat, we've got actual animal sacrifice happening in the woods. There's no beating around the bush, no slow reveal of the true nature of the cult. I appreciate that, especially because it makes the fact that no one believes Wil all the more sinister. No one is willing to help, even when the evidence is overwhelmingly clear. 
  • Witchy: There's something I like so much about a perfectly mundane character turning out to be a witch. Whether it's a gas station attendant or, in this case, the front desk worker at a run-down motel, I just love the idea of mingling a bad customer service job with a more spiritual, ethereal existence. Sure, she works a terrible 9-to-5, but that doesn't mean her home isn't full of votive candles, just waiting to read the cards of those who need her. 


  • Investment: I had a really hard time getting invested in this book. The atmosphere is great, but the plot, the characters... It takes a really long time to get into the good stuff. I hit the halfway point before anything really started to move, to develop, and a lot of readers won't stick it out that long. This book isn't bad, but it doesn't have much of a hook, a reason to get invested. 
  • All Aboard: It takes so long for things to develop because, despite an animal sacrifice happening almost at once, nobody in town really believes there is, you know, a cult in town. But somehow, when Wil and Elwood uncover some more "proof," their friends immediately jump on the bandwagon. I don't know. I guess I just didn't buy that the new proof was stronger than the old proof. I mean, if animal sacrifice doesn't do it... wouldn't it be hard to swallow the fact that a sacrificial cult lives in your town? Elwood would have his reasons to believe, and of course, Wil has hers. But all of their friends, convinced by old records and documents all at once? C'mon. I don't believe it. 
  • Not a Revelation: The "revelation" that happens with this new uncovering of evidence... isn't actually a revelation? It felt like readers were meant to be shocked at the true nature of this town's "church." But we started out swinging, and there's no reason to doubt Wil's evidence from page one. So the revelation isn't really a revelation. All that build-up for nothing. 



Fans of Andrew Joseph White's Hell Followed With Us will enjoy this... transformative new cult. Those who enjoyed Elizabeth Kilcoyne's Wake the Bones will like the creeping, crawling rot in these pages. 


Publisher: Viking Books For Young Readers
Date: August 29, 2023
Series: N/A
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Note: I was provided with an ARC by the publisher through Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. All opinions here are my own.


  1. This book has some intriguing elements and I enjoyed reading your review of it.

  2. Great review! I'm glad to hear it delivered the creepy forest element, but I can see why it fell short overall. Thanks for sharing!

  3. This book definitely does sound like it has creepy vibes, and I might check out and I'll have to remember that things do pick up later in the book.


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