Series: Croak #1
Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt on March 20th 2012
Genres: Paranormal Fantasy, Young Adult
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Fed up with her wild behavior, sixteen-year-old Lex's 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 shoveling manure. He's a Grim Reaper. And he's going to teach Lex the family business.
She quickly assimilates into the peculiar world of Croak, a town populated by reapers who deliver souls from this life to the next. But Lex can't stop her desire for justice - or is it vengeance? - whenever she encounters a murder victim, craving to stop the attackers before they can strike again.
Will she ditch Croak and go rogue with her reaper skills?
Have you read Croak? If not, you should probably do so ASAP because it is all kinds of awesome.
You may not be aware, but she has some pretty high standards (much higher than mine) and excellent taste, so I went in with high hopes. As you can see, I was not disappointed.
Croak is one of those excessively witty books that you either wholeheartedly respond to or end up feeling like it was tediously overdone. It felt kind of Sarah Rees Brennan-ish, but with more rage (which I, personally, respond to.)
As you may have gathered from the summary, Lex is a speshul snowflake. But her speshul snowflake-ness manifests itself in a delightfully unusual way. A formerly kind, sweet girl, Lex presently finds herself continually overcome with massive amounts of anger for little to no reason. She deals with it like so:
Except, instead of a punching bag, it’s the nearest face. I found this to be a hilarious, welcome twist on a time-honored plot device. I mean, violence isn’t cool and all that jazz, but I thoroughly enjoyed this atypical heroine behavior.
Anyway, after Lex punches one person too many, her parents tie her to a chair (no joke, they have a set of bungee cords specifically for this as it is apparently the only way to get Rage!Lex to hold still and listen without attacking them. I’m telling you, this girl is a massive asshole in the beginning and it tickled the shit out of me) and explain they are sending her to a little town in the middle of nowhere to work off some of her anger management issues on her uncle Mort’s farm.
But then, PLOT TWIST! Uncle Mort (an amazing, ridiculous, motorcycle-riding, I-play-with-forks-and-electrical-outlets-and-that’s-why-my-hair-looks-like-this, mad scientist conundrum of a character) isn’t a farmer, he’s a Grim Reaper and so is Lex!
Turns out, not only is Lex a Grim, she’s a really, really good Grim and here’s where the fun and shenanigans begin. Croak has a very Dead Like Me vibe to it, a well-balanced mix of quirky humor and serious plot. (If you don’t understand that reference, please get yourself to the nearest video streaming service of your choice and watch Dead Like Me–the show, not the movie–RIGHT. NOW.) In addition to meeting the wacky cast of characters residing in Croak (a town full of all the deathly puns a gal could ask for) Lex is quickly embroiled in a murder mystery that threatens the entire world she has only just discovered and come to love. Together with Mort and her partner Driggs, Lex must try to stay one step ahead of the killer and figure out just what the hell is going on.
Now, you may not have noticed, but I am a bit of an amateur shipper (I wouldn’t dare dream to call it more than a hobby, I am nowhere near as dedicated as some) and Lex/Driggs?
From the moment they punched each other in the face, I had boarded and declared myself captain of their ship. (Yes, there was mutual punching, but before anyone gets all ‘boys shouldn’t hit girls,’ I agree with you. But I also think if you want to run around indiscriminately punching people in the face, it’s only fair for them to punch back and either way, Gina Damico makes it work.)
The hate-to-love dynamic is a tricky beast. I adore it when it’s done right and it drives me bananaballs when it falls short. Lex and Driggs are hate-to-love done right. Their sniping and USTy-ness was adorable and I wanted to smash their faces together and force them to make out.
Basically, here’s Croak in a nutshell: A weird set of circumstances that Damico skillfully weaves together with black humor and eccentric details. There were probably parts of the story that were imperfect, but honestly? I was too busy LOLing all over the place to be bothered by them. If this sounds in any way appealing to you, read this book. Read it now.