Croak by Gina Damico (March 20, 2012, Graphia)
Review by Kenzie Helene
From the very first sentence, Croak drags you into the life of Lexington, a teenage girl living in New York City. Lex had always been a good kid. She got straight A’s, was a hall monitor, and followed all the rules. That is until she started getting uncontrollable bouts of anger and hurting the other students in her school. When the principal threatens to expel her on the last day of junior year, her parents offer to send Lex to her Uncle Mort’s farm for the Summer, hoping it will change her attitude. It certainly does, but how is Lex supposed to get used to living with a group of Grim Reapers?
Gina Damico, the author, does amazing things with the cast she presents in her novel. Uncle Mort is an uncle I wish I had in my family, with crazy hair and motorcycle. Oh, and he’s a Grim Reaper. While readers get to meet Lex, her twin Cordy, and Uncle Mort, they also get to meet other famous people who have drifted onto the afterlife, like Edgar Allan Poe and a few dead founding fathers while Lex and a group of friends venture into the afterlife. Each of them has their own quirks and faults that makes them not only more realistic, but fun to read.
While the characters in Croak are imaginative, it is the setting that truly evokes a response while reading. Croak is a small town in Upstate New York. When people from other states picture New York, they picture big skyscrapers, great shopping and important landmarks. Upstate New York is nothing like that. There are cows and farmland and during the Winter months, a lot of snow. However, Croak is nothing like the traditional Upstate New York town. It’s small on the outside, but just like the TARDIS*, it’s bigger on the inside, a private world that visitors are forced not to notice. The description of their personal twist on alcohol, Yorick, and their pack of death-finding jellyfish just make me want to visit. Unfortunately, Croak has their own methods of making tourists leave.
Lexington battles the constant fear that what the Grims do is wrong. Grim Reapers are not allowed to interfere with death or take the soul of anyone who isn't dead, but Lex can't help but feel that if she were to kill murderers, rapists, and other criminals, the world would be a much better place. The power to control death is a heavy one and brings up the question of what would the reader do if placed in the same situation. The saying about absolute power is that it corrupts absolutely.
While I’m absolutely distraught because my copy of Croak has been returned, I can’t wait for it to come out in March. I’ll be waiting at the bookstore to get a physical copy into my hands. As a fellow upstate New York-er, I am more than hoping that Damico might come and sign this awesome book near here.
*Doctor Who Reference, a time traveling spaceship that is bigger on the inside.