Croak (Croak, book 1)
By Gina Damico
Expected publication March 20, 2012 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Well, it's happened - Lex Bartleby's parents have finally had enough. Enough of her out-of-the-blue tirades, enough of her school suspensions, enough of her landing her peers in the hospital. ENOUGH. So, this summer, it's off to Uncle Mort's for Lex - an uncle she barely remembers in a place she's never heard of. But Lex's mind is about to be blown - for Uncle Mort holds the family secret and Lex is about to discover her true calling. And it just might involve a scythe...
I grabbed this one at Midwinter because, HELLO, it's about a teenage Reaper. I was expecting something along the lines of the awesome (and unfortunately, short-lived) "Dead Like Me" television show. Then I saw that my ARC included a blurb from Adam Rex - surely you know by now that I have kind of a teeny tiny MAJOR author crush on him. So I expected a lot from this book. I can't say it really lived up to all my expectations but I can't say it really didn't work either. As a main character, Lex is kind of a pain - I never really felt all that sympathetic toward her and wasn't really interested in her as a person. But I was completely sold on the workings of Killing, Culling, and Reaping that Damico lays out in her novel - it's a pretty complex world she's created and I buy it. I love the science of the Ether, the involvement of the spiders and jellyfish, and the reality of the Afterlife. While this book wasn't as funny as I expected, there's still a good deal of humor, which I think works especially well for books dealing with Reapers or Death. I liked learning about the crazy ways that people manage to die and I liked all the conflict that Lex is feeling inside while trying to come to terms with her new life and all the emotions that come with it. I loved all the secondary characters that populate Croak - they are a diverse bunch that I found very fun to read about. I liked the little bit of romance thrown in - it definitely made for some of the more entertaining moments of the book. My main issue with this book is that, for me, the bad guy was insanely obvious, almost from the first time we meet them. There was still enough interesting stuff going on to keep me reading, especially wanting to find out how Lex would deal with her conflicting emotions about the murders. I don't know how many books are planned in the series but the ending makes it quite clear that there will at least be a sequel. I don't mind the idea of coming back to Croak for another round. I can see Damico setting other books in other Grim cities, as well. Overall, a decently entertaining read, though not quite what I expected.
Thanks to the publisher for an advance reader's copy.