Monday, June 18, 2012

Croak Review

Gina Damico @ginadamico
March 20th 2012 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
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?
I really enjoyed Croak with its spunky lead character and hilarious humor. Lexington Bartleby is a troublemaker whose parents have reached their limits and decided to ship her off to her uncle's house. They tell her it's for her own good and all that other stuff parents tell a kid hoping they will understand why they have to do what they are doing, but for Lex, it still sucks. She really doesn't want to go to work on a farm for the summer. I don't really blame her!  On the way there, Lex sees the light - no, not the "light" as in the error of her ways - literally the "light." She sees a soul on its way to where ever souls go when they depart the body.  Lex is just a bit freaked out...okay, more than a bit.

She arrives to meet her Uncle Mort and finds out Croak is not your ordinary farming community.  Croak is a town full of reapers, people who help delivers the souls of the recently dead, and Lex is one of them like her Uncle Mort. Uh huh, yep. That's why she's been full of mood swings and the need to punch anyone who looks at her funny. She has been turning into a Grim. Luckily, her uncle heard about it and brought her here for training. With Croak, Damico provides a mystery as Lex and her new partner Driggs are investigating weird deaths - people who shouldn't be dying, but are, and a comedy because they characters are a riot. Did I mention Lex has a twin named Cordy, short for Concord...Lexington and Concord...and their mother is a history teacher.  It's little zingers like this that keep a smile on my face as I read Croak.  I can't wait for Scorch which comes out in September.

One upcoming appearance:

Saturday, June 23 - Beyond Words: an author panel featuring me, Hilary Graham, Diana Renn, and AC Gaughen
Tatnuck Bookstore
Westborough, MA

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