Review: Croak by Gina Damico

Publication Date: March 20th, 2012
Graphia / HMH
Format: ARC, 311 pages
RATING:  4 out of 5 Stars
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?

Croak is a snark-filled, humour-laden refreshing take on soul reaping and death imagery in every warped way possible. Meet Lex – a rebelious teen forced to spend the summer with her uncle as punishment for her rash of inexcusable behaviour. Aside from being a farmer with a reputation for being notoriously obscure and affinity to that of a hermit, she barely knew Uncle Mort. Lexington soon learned that Uncle Mort is a ‘harverster’ of a different crop altogether and the town of Croak with a tiny population of 85 people, hides a world beyond anything she could ever imagined. Absurdity abounds, hilarity ensues as Lex navigates her way around small town Creepsville, USA while figuring out what unprecedented reaping abilities she apparently has according to her twisted, morbid Uncle.

This book was a lot of fun! The incredibly funny ensemble of characters just about eclipsed the plot line for me. I had to fight the urge to skip all the soul harvesting and just read the parts where the degenerate of the society chillaxed and drank copious amount of their own version of Crunk juice (elixir + unknown substance). Uncle Mort is just…wrong in so many levels. He’s the cool uncle but you can’t trust him to babysit your kids. Not that he’d abuse them or anything but let’s just say they’ll be on a steady diet of Doritos and frozen pizza for the duration of their stay. Seriously, even the bit part characters here gave me a chuckle or two.

The absurdity factor in this book is through the roof. There’s the invertebrate harbinger of deaths – jellyfishes, the roomful of black widow spiders who harbour some deep affectionate love for Driggs and vice versa and holy freaking crap! The hallway/lounge where everyone in the Afterlife hangs out is like a daycare for dead presidents, literary geniuses and celebrities. Hilarious banters, childish pranks and EDGAR ALLAN POE. Win.

But not everything is roses and rainbows. I have some minor grievances. First, Drigg’s confession (?) about his true feelings for Lex didn’t really match up with the way he treated her throughout the book. I don’t know. Maybe it’s in his character to (A) punch the girl he liked simply because she punched him first – that’s very school playground antics, by the way or (B) act like he wasn’t jonesing for the girl the whole time. As much as I love their bickering and bantering, I swear they needled each other like siblings and as such, I couldn’t see a love match between the two. But hey, Driggs with all his apathetic bravado still managed to pull the sweet card from time to time. He grew on me like a fungus in the dark recesses of the forest.

I also had a bit of a hard time taking the story seriously. But in this case, I think it’s a good thing. Death is not a funny business but Damico sure as hell missed that memo. Based on her novel, Gina Damico is one hilarious, twisted lady that I’d pay to hang with. Please pass on the message.

Overall, this highly entertaining novel will have you laughing your ass off, wishing you lived in Croak, wishing you were dead hanging with my man, E.A.Poe, and cringing at some of the obscure ways people meet their Maker.

You may also like