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Thursday, March 22, 2012

Review: Croak by Gina Damico

TITLE: Croak                                   SERIES: Croak #1
AUTHOR: Gina Damico                  PUB DATE: 3/20/12
PUB: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt   FORMAT: eARC
SOURCE: Netgalley

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? 



MY REVIEW: I’m really intrigued by the idea of Reapers, so I was excited to read Gina Damico’s Croak but I ended up quite disappointed with the story, characters and execution (teehee).

Sixteen year old Lex Bartleby used to be a nice, normal straight A student, but now she’s a violent, disrespectful mess. No longer sure what to do with their delinquent daughter, Mr. and Mrs. Bartleby ship Lex off to her Uncle Mort’s “farm” for the summer. Lex doesn’t want to leave her twin sister (and BFF) Cordy, but she has no choice. Lex arrives in Croak, population 80, expecting boring farms and hillbillies, but gets Grim Reapers, scythes and death. Uncle Mort turns out to be a Reaper and Lex begins to train as a Killer. Soon Lex finds herself with a new group of friends, a frustrating (but hot) partner, and a real purpose. But then people who aren’t supposed to die start dying mysteriously and Lex and her new friends set out to catch the murderer.

I liked the idea of the overall premise of Croak; the idea of a town full of Grim Reapers and training reapers is a truly awesome idea. Unfortunately, I just never connected with the main character and the mystery and action failed to thrill me.

Damico’s take on Reapers, the Afterlife, souls, the ether etc is interesting and imaginative. And the author does do great job of building the physical world of Croak and all the otherworldy places (Afterlife, the ether). There are some fascinating aspects involving jellyfish and spiders…I’m still not entirely sure exactly what the spiders and jellyfish do/make and how they do/make it, but I did find them intriguing.

I think my lack of enjoyment really came from my inability to like and connect with the main character, Lex. I like my heroines sarcastic, kickass and feisty, but it seems like Lex is just TOO much of these things, like the author tried too hard to make her fit some kind of mold. And for me, Lex’s sarcasm usually came off more annoying and eye-roll inducing then genuinely funny, and it often fell flat and unnatural. Then there’s the idea of just how violent Lex is. Yes, Lex’s violence and anger is explained as coming with her being a potential Reaper, but I just couldn’t bring myself to be okay with that. I mean in the beginning of the book Lex had already hurt several classmates (like broken bones) and her parents had to literally tie her to the chair to talk to her, then once she gets to Croak she often hits her uncle in anger and she and Driggs (her partner) give each other black eyes from punching one another…I have nothing against violence in books, when it fits with the story, but I guess I found the violence in this book unnecessary.

I did like Lex’s new friends in Croak; they’re a fun, entertaining and eclectic bunch. And Unlce Mort is a pretty cool guy. Overall, Driggs is a likable character, but I found the romance/connection between him and Lex to lack a spark.

I like dark humor, even morbid humor, but again I just didn’t enjoy most of the humor in this book. Throughout the book, the residents in Croak often discuss and laugh about all the ways their Targets (people whose souls they reap) die, and this just rubbed me the wrong way. And when tourists wander into the town of Croak the residents use Amnesia to make them forget the town, which I understand, but before sending them on their way, Reapers often con the tourists out of money, which I found kind of sketchy…of course, these are personal dislikes and other readers may find these things hilarious.

I chose to see this book through to the end because I really wanted to know who the murderer was and although the actual journey to figuring out who he/she was wasn’t very exciting to me, I did like the twisted revelation of who the murderer was and Damico did slip in one shocking event toward the end that had me saying “Oh no she didn’t?!”.

MY FINAL THOUGHTS: In the end, Croak just wasn’t for me. I failed to connect with and genuinely like the main character and there were just too many things that kept me from truly enjoying this book. But I think fans of dark humor, snarky heroines and twists on Reapers may like this more than me and should give it a try.

2/5 Cupcakes

Find the author: Website / Goodreads / Twitter / Facebook
Purchase: Amazon / B&N / Book Dep.
I grew up under four feet of snow in Syracuse, New York. I received a degree in theater and sociology from Boston College, where I was active with the Committee for Creative Enactments, a murder mystery improv comedy troupe that may or may not have sparked my interest in wildly improbably bloodshed. I have since worked as a tour guide, transcriptionist, theater house manager, scenic artist, movie extra, office troll, retail monkey, yarn hawker, and breadmonger. I live in Boston with my husband, two cats, and a closet full of black hoodies.  


Kelly said...

That's unfortunate. Everything you disliked sounds like something I would be questioning as well, and I had high hopes for Croak! I'll probably still give it a shot, but it's definitely moved down my TBR list a little.

Thanks for the honest review :)

Amy said...

It's a shame that you didn't really enjoy this. It's on my tbr list. I think it sounds entertaining. Thanks for the great and honest review!

PamM said...

Croak has been on my want list for a while. Thank you for the honest review of it. I will still read it sometime I just won't be in any hurry to do so.