Hello readers. Once again, I come before you with another book review, and this is was a unique find.
The book, Croak, by Gina Damico is a young adult fiction novel that centers around the 16 year old, heavy handed, hot tempered Lexington Bartleby, or Lex for short. The destructive and dangerous teen has become intolerable at her home and school. So much so, that she is shipped off to the middle of nowhere to spend the summer with her Uncle Mort. However, as all good books go, all is not what it seems. Her Uncle works as a grim reaper and plans to teach Lex the family business. However, during her time there, things become complicated as people start dying in mysterious ways. Lex, along with her partner Driggs, Uncle Mort and the other Killers, have to stop the killing spree before it’s too late.
Now starting off, I will say that at first I was no fan of Lex. How can anyone be that angry, violent, and irrational all at once? Sounds a little too much for me. I just thought why not put her in anger management. Thankfully, I eventually warmed up to the character as she mellowed out and became somewhat rational. Being the main protagonist, she has a sense of humor and bares a likeable demeanor; later on in the book of course. As mentioned before though, the earlier Lex can come off as a brat and unreletable to say the least. From her, we go into her family dynamic. Her uncle, to whom she doesn’t know much about and is weirder than most relatives, seems like a straight forward and caring character; although rough around the edges. Still, it’s the rest of the town of Croak that makes up the cast. For me, I saw so much of Lex, from the beginning, in other characters. For example, the directors, Norwood and Heloise. Two of my least favorite characters in the entire town. Aside from being in charge and utter pricks, their biggest concern is with children having and possessing the power to reap souls and thats it. They don’t have a life or backstory. The issue I had most was how one dimensional they felt. They would only show up to be angry, shout, stomp and curse, before storming to their office Aside from that, I felt the other characters added a genuine feel to Lex’s environment. Each with their own personalities, gripes, moans, and dysfunctions. Overall, some well fleshed out characters but some that are just there to add unneeded wood to the fire.
The miniscule town of Croak is set apart from the world and is a hidden secret that no one, other than those that work there, knows about. I did appreciate the creativity put into explaining how “tourist” forget about anything they stumble upon in the homestead. Reminded me of Men in Black. Besides being in a slice of nowhere, the story also transitions back to New York where Lex’s family is. Then there is the addition of the ether as well. A type of dimensional space the reapers use to perform their work without being spotted by the normal populace. Now, I love it when a story has 3 or less settings. Why? Its one thing for the character to recall a trip or vacation they took, but having to set the scene over and over again seems confusing at times for me. That is what this book does well. Instead of mentioning all the places the reapers travel to, they just say “hey I went here” or “we had a guy on a ship”. It wasn’t a full description of every job they had to take on. I can respect that. Simplicity, especially in setting, is overall good.
The meat and potatoes of any story is the conflict. Not just fighting but the problems that arise internally and within organizations. The town of Croak already faces the biggest problem of being discreet. The story begins with Lex against her home, school, parents and all other authorities. When she is shipped to Croak, she meets Zara, whom Lex is told is jealous of her natural talent. Lex then gets the partner Driggs, who is a complexity within himself and, whether intentional or accidental, causes friction between the two of them. However, the main conflict comes from the mysterious deaths of people. The teens suspect a reaper is going rogue and slaying people left and right. But, they fear the murderer is closer than they think. The conflict adds to the character development and overall plot genuinely. I found the premise unique, cool, and the danger just adds to it.
Croak is a fun and endearing tale about the coming of age of Lexington. The start, however rough, smooths out into a memorable adventure of danger and intrigue. Some of the characters are less to be desired but that is made up by the others. The setting is refined and simple and the conflict adds to the overall flare of the story. In the end, I would give this book, a 4/5. Now once again this is my opinion and I would recommend this book for those fantasy readers looking for something different and new. Heck, you may even like it more than I did.
Still, if you liked this review, please hit that good old like button and leave a comment about a book you read recently that you either liked or hated beyond belief. Until the next session, be safe and keep reading.