croakCroak by Gina Damico
Release Date: March 20, 2012
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Source: NetGalley
Rating: starstarstarstarblank_star
Buy It: Amazon | IndieBound

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?

Man, Lex is a character who’s hard to relate to. She’s violent, impulsive, stubborn, and in the throes of full-on teenage rebellion (and trust me, ten years ago I was the queen of teenage rebellion). She punched people all the time, she terrorizes her classmates in high school, she swears a ridiculous amount (and in this book, so do the adults). I’m not offended by profanity, but it really felt like this book was trying too hard to be edgy or cool. The story was good and I loved Driggs and Ferbus, but Lex is so unrelatable and out of control that I couldn’t find any sort of sympathy for her in this book. I am always predisposed to liking heroines, especially ones with powers, but Lex never once grew on me. Elysia and Zara are completely different stories.

This book is pretty typical YA but with an awesome plot. It’s pretty original, deals with a lot of emotional and psychological backlash, and doesn’t focus a quarter of it’s time on the romance. (And speaking of romance, I loved this one, because Damico writes in a hilariously self-aware sort of way.) Damico writes in a matter-of-fact way, even if she does break the fourth wall sometimes (one of my pet peeves in novels), and most of her dialogue and the inner musings of the Junior Grims are hilarious. I laughed out loud a lot while reading this book, which was dangerous considering I read a lot of it at work. The hilarity of Lex’s interactions with Driggs almost cancel out Lex’s overdone “edginess.”

Despite the humor, this book is not all fun and games. As the murders start piling up, we realize that we don’t really know much about Lex’s friends or even her uncle. There’s some sinister foreshadowing that I won’t spoil, and character death is not something Damico shies away from (which you must know by now, I LOVE when authors kill their characters if it works for the plot). The book ends with almost no resolution, besides knowing who the murderer is. It’s sad and open-ended, and I really hope this turns into a series or has a sequel!