Croak by Gina Damico

24 04 2012

 

 

 

Sixteen-year-old Lex Bartleby has sucker-punched her last classmate. Fed up with her punkish, wild behavior, her parents ship her off to upstate New York to live with her Uncle Mort for the summer, hoping that a few months of dirty farm work will whip her back into shape. But Uncle Mort’s true occupation is much dirtier than that of shoveling manure.

He’s a Grim Reaper. And he’s going to teach her the family business.

Lex quickly assimilates into the peculiar world of Croak, a town populated entirely by reapers who deliver souls from this life to the next. Along with her infuriating yet intriguing partner Driggs and a rockstar crew of fellow Grim apprentices, Lex is soon zapping her Targets like a natural born Killer.

Yet her innate ability morphs into an unchecked desire for justice—or is it vengeance?—whenever she’s forced to Kill a murder victim, craving to stop the attackers before they can strike again. So when people start to die—that is, people who aren’t supposed to be dying, people who have committed grievous crimes against the innocent—Lex’s curiosity is piqued. Her obsession grows as the bodies pile up, and a troubling question begins to swirl through her mind: if she succeeds in tracking down the murderer, will she stop the carnage—or will she ditch Croak and join in?

 

Go away, vampires; enter the Grim Reapers!

With Croak Grim Reapers have “entered” the YA world. Now, Grim Reapers are evidently not new, with movies and books and plenty of legends about them. However (and correct me if I am wrong) Grim Reapers have not entered the YA world before. I know of some books that touch on reapers but none that are entirely based around reapers. Frankly, I was almost surprised that there had never been a YA book (that I know of; I could be wrong) focusing entirely around these hunters; nowadays there seem to be plenty of books about panoramal creatures and hunters.

The beginning of this book may be a harder sell, and some readers may become disinterested in the book. Lex is a “punk” girl, punching and hurting and harming people and constantly getting warned, suspended, and expelled. Some readers have commented that they found Lex hard to relate to in her actions, but I related to her a bit and didn’t dislike her. To me, she seemed to be a girl who didn’t know how to understand her emotions and acts. The plot quickly moves away from the more realistic setting into Croak (hence the title) as Lex goes to live with her uncle Mort. Croak, is of course, a town populated entirely by Grim Reapers, and of course, Lex is a Grim Reaper herself, and of course, she is going to learn how to become one.

Some of the plot is based upon tropes: girl learns that she is (insert creature/thing here) must learn how to become (insert creature/thing here) and adjust to becoming (insert creature/thing here). But Croak puts a pretty fresh spin on these tropes, as Lex doesn’t want to learn to be a Reaper. But she obliges and begins to learn. This was the other complaint I had with the plot: it was hard to understand the “rules”. The Grim Reaper world has created a foundation of rules on which their society is based on, which are a bit complicated. The rules are explained quickly and I still was confused on some aspects (such as Killing and scything) by the end of the book.

However, I did enjoy the plot. Lex is very funny and how she goes about being a Reaper brings extra humor. She has plenty of wild misadventures, and the world of Croak is very funny as well (such as the afterlife populated by fighting famous figures). The world is filled with dark humor and the book knows what is appropriate humor and what is not. I also loved the climax, which is very heartbreaking and perfect for the story while building on towards the next book in the series.

As for the characters, Lex was a strong girl for me with insecurities and motivation. She seemed relatable and interesting, and changed over the course of the story from her “angsty” persona to a better girl. Cordy was another favorite of mine and I loved the sisters’ relationship and how it influenced and motivated the plot. I liked Driggs but the romance he developed with Lex was completely unsurprising to me. Uncle Mort was also very funny and the rest of the Reapers were as well.

Gina Damico‘s writing was strong and interesting. She wrote third person well and I felt that I understood Lex’s motivations and feelings very well. Her writing was perfect for the story in my opinion, strong and fresh.

I really enjoyed this book and I’m eager for the sequel, SCORCH, which comes out in the fall. A fun read.

4 stars

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