Series: Croak #1
Published by HMH Books for Young Readers on 2012-03-20
Genres: paranormal, young adult
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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?
First thing’s first: I don’t think Croak was necessarily a bad book at all. I did like a lot of parts of it, but mostly, it just wasn’t for me. I’m not very big into paranormal stories anymore, especially grim reapers, but since literally everyone loves this series, I’ve been meaning to give it a try. Thanks to Lili’s recommendation, I’m finally getting a jump of some of the series I own, starting with this one. I’m happy I read it, but again, it wasn’t perfect for me.
My biggest problem with the whole book was that I simply couldn’t connect to Lex at all. We start the novel knowing very little about her and honestly… we learn nothing throughout the course of these 300 pages. All we know is that maybe two years ago, she turned into a real brat – she started being snotty, rude, and incredibly violent for no real reason. And that reason is never given at all. Her violent outbursts slowly go away supposedly from being in Croak and doing the Grim business, but it’s never fully explained and I noticed. Also, we really don’t know anything about this girl outside of her experiences in Croak! Who is she? What does she like, what does she do, what does she believe in? I read a whole book about this girl but I couldn’t answer any of these questions. As such, I couldn’t connect to the rest of the characters and I didn’t care one way or the other about their relationship with Lex.
Now, if you do connect with Lex, this book holds the kind of romance that could potentially be a kick to the gut. I could tell the author was trying to rev up the tension between Lex and Driggs – it was a hate-to-love romance that I personally usually love. If I felt it, I would have been squealing, I’m sure. But I never got their connection. I must have missed the part where the hate went to love because suddenly they were kissing and to me, even though I knew it was coming just from being exposed to the series, it felt like it came out of nowhere. Also – the kissing scenes, what few there were, were completely brushed over. There was no detail at all, and us YA readers, we like our detailed kissing scenes.
The mystery did keep me guessing – as much as I could anyway. The problem with the mystery was that we were never given all the details of how the world worked, so there was no way to try figure out the culprit. For the most part, it really could have been anyone. With most serial killing mysteries, we can piece together the clues along with the characters and read into other characters’ actions because we’re given enough information. But with Croak all the details of the world-building were very slowly revealed and it was only until the last few pages that we were given the right pieces to the puzzle. This was underwhelming.
However, there great parts to Croak that kind of break the norms of the genre. For instance, I loved Lex’s relationship with her family. Lex’s delinquency landed her in some trouble and so she was shipped off to live with her uncle to maybe clear her head and get some discipline. She left behind her two warm and loving parents and her twin sister, Cordy. A running theme in this novel was the idea of familial love and support, and that was refreshing. Also, the kids felt comfortable enough to go to Lex’s uncle Mort with their troubles and actually ask for help. This shows a level of trust between Lex and her family that one doesn’t see a whole lot in a world of dead parents and teenage vigilantes. It also showed a measure of levelheadedness that I sometimes feel is sorely lacking.
Another favorite thing about this book for me, was the dialogue. I’ve seen a lot of reviewers say this book was funny; I don’t necessarily agree (I get the humor, but I didn’t find it funny – there’s a difference.) However, the banter was spot on and the kids sounded like teenagers almost ALL of the time, which was another breath of fresh air.
This book likes to kick down barriers and defy some of the things we all complain about in YA, paranormal YA in particular. The world-building might have been strange (a lot of it unexplained and maybe TOO punny for me) but it shows a creativity I can’t ignore. I do own the second book in this series, Scorch, so I will probably pick that up sometime in the future. And this author shows a lot of promise, so I certainly look forward to checking out her newest release, Hellhole. Bottom line, this is a fun book that I do think deserves praise, but ultimately it’s just not my cup of tea.