Friday, April 13, 2012

Review: Croak

Croak by Gina Damico 
Release: March 20th, 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? 

- - -

Writing this review was stressful because, well, Croak was an “okay” book. Nothing more, nothing less. But, I admit it, the hook line drew me in:

Life’s not fair--why should death be any different?.

I must be honest, though: Croak didn't interest me. Not at first. I couldn’t connect with Lex at all and I thought the writing  to be different--odd, even. A few weeks later, I determined to give Croak another try, and I’m glad I did. 

For those who have no idea what Croak is about, here’s a short summary. Lex has turned delinquent. So, her parents decide to send her to Croak to live with Uncle Mort (a fitting name, if I say so myself). Lex is under the impression that her uncle works on a farm, but really, his job is much dirtier. Mort is a Grim Reaper, and he has invited Lex to Croak to learn the family business. Things turn ugly, though, when deaths of mysterious and unknown causes occur. And it’s only a matter of time before one of the Grims becomes a target.

It wasn't until Lex arrived at Croak that I actually enjoyed the book. I was pleased to see more depth to the main character as she changed and developed into someone I could actually root for. Kudos to Damico for a believable character arc! I also loved the world that she created, and the people that inhabited it. By page 200, I was ready to forget the rocky start and give this book a rockin' review.

But the last third of the book fell flat, in my brutally honest opinion.

Damico has a way with dialogue, but the moments of conviction, passion, and grief were severely underplayed. These “tough subjects” were brushed under the floor in favor of a more fast-paced and edgy novel. It didn’t work for me. And yes, there were surprising twists, but the “who-done-it” mystery was kind of predictable. I also wasn't pleased with a certain death. It felt contrived and unnecessary

However, there are plenty of reasons for why I enjoyed reading Croak--the witty humor, the dialogue, the "world building", and the character development. As I said, though, it was an “okay” novel. Others will like it more than I did, and that's fine. My suggestion? Give it a chance and see what you think. I certainly don't regret reading Croak and I look forward to Scorch when it comes out in September. Perhaps I will like it better. We'll just have to wait and see. 



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