Saturday, June 23, 2012

REVIEW: Croak (with a similar concept to the tv show Dead Like Me)

Sorry I haven't been posting much!

I am deep into revising one of my YA novels and it seems to be all I have time for.

I've gone through almost the entire book in about five days.

Hopefully, once I'm done with this revision I'll be able to give my mind a rest and focus a little more on reading.

Damico, G.  (2012).  Croak.  Boston:  Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.

311 pages.

Appetizer:  Lex is a very angry teenager.  Like way angrier than most.  She used to be an A-earning, hall monitoring, respectful girl like her twin sister, Cordy.  But for some reason, Lex just can't get along with anyone anymore.  Frustrated, her parents have decided to send her to stay with her Uncle Mort in a strange small town called Croak for the summer.

Separated from her sister for the first time, Lex quickly learns that there's something fantastic about Croak and that she won't be milking cows or feeding chickens over the summer like she'd been led to believe.  Instead, she's to be trained as a grim reaper with her new partner, the attractive and strange Driggs.  As Lex quickly settles in and excels at her new occupation, she and Driggs notice a pattern among some unusual deaths.  Will they take it upon themselves to do more than the grim reapers are ordered to do and try to find a potential serial killer?  (I bet you can guess the answer.)

There's a lot of really wonderful humor in Croak.  It was refreshing:

"'You just missed it...," Elysia told her.  "Ferbus swallowed a button.""It fell off my shirt!" he yelled, as if this explained something." (p. 235)
The above was one of my favorite moments.

Having complimented the humor, I have to admit that, along with the omniscient narration, it got in the way of me being able to connect with Lex as a character.  Worse, the humor also prevented me from feeling the seriousness of some of the situations Lex found herself in.

I also had trouble with the magical concept of loopholes (The grims can only transport to where there is a dead body intended for them to reap, but the killer somehow controls where he or she goes using loopholes).  I just didn't buy the way Damico structured them into the world.

The mystery seemed a little forced as well.  At one point, Lex learns more important information solely because her friends didn't feel like telling her details sooner.  That seemed a little sloppy to me.

Overall, I had trouble connecting with the book.  It was more than just the fact that I felt like the narration kept the characters at a distance. Some of the situations just seemed a little too awkward or unrealistic (like how Lex met Driggs for the first time:  she walks in on him using the bathroom.  Despite her supposedly feeling completely awkward about this, they talk for several minutes.  I didn't buy it.).

Dinner Conversation:

"Lex wondered, for a fleeting moment, what her principal's head might look like if it were stabbed atop a giant wooden spear.
"I can't imagine why you're smiling, young lady," Mr. Truitt said from behind his desk." (p. 1)

"Lexington Bartleby, age sixteen, had spent the last two years transforming her squeaky-clean, straight-A life into that of a hooligan.  A delinquent.  A naughty little rapscallion, as it were.
To the untrained eye, it appeared as though Lex had simply grown bored.  She had begun acting out in every way that a frustrated bundle of pubescence possibly could:  she stole things, she swore like a drunken pirate, and she punched people.  A lot of people." (p. 3)

"Mr. Bartleby looked at his wife, then at his non-tethered daughter, then up, at nothing.  Anything to avoid the squirmy, hurt visage of his troubled baby girl.  "You're going to go stay up north with Uncle Mort for the summer," he told the ceiling.
Lex, who a second ago had been fully prepared to explode into a vicious rage and had even started planning some sort of dramatic dive through the plate glass window, chair and all, was for once shocked into speechlessness.
Mrs. Bartleby put her hand on Lex's shoulder.  'I know it's a rather odd decision, but we think that a few months of fresh air could do you some good.  You can get in touch with nature, lend a hand on Uncle Mort's farm, maybe even learn something!  You could milk a cow!'" (pp. 6-7)

"Both sides of the highway came to a standstill.  Ambulance sirens screamed through the dull thudding of the rain as more emergency vehicles tore onto the scene.  Lex surveyed the wreck with nothing more than a fleeting interest and a grim expression--until something bizarre appeared.
A white, blinding flash of light.
Startled, Lex peered through the rain.  It was so brief--like the flash of a camera--that she couldn't even be sure she had seen it at all.  Or, if she had, it must have been lightning--except hadn't the light come from inside one of the cars?  But that made no sense.  The vehicle was crumpled beyond recognition, there were no signs of life." (p. 15)

"That same electric crackle shot through the air once more as Uncle Mort opened his mouth to speak.  "Lex," he said, "Croak is a portal--one that sits between our world and the next."
A strange noise escaped Lex's lips, something between a stupefied gasp and a dubious snicker.  "What?"
"That's why you're here.  I'm going to teach you how to do what I do."
"And what is that?"
He leaned in close.  She could feel his breath on her face.
"I Kill people." (p. 36)

"'But seriously.  We really have the power to whack people?'
Zara let out an exasperated huff, as if she'd been over this countless times before.  "We're not hit men, Lex.  We don't cause death.  We're just there to pick up the pieces.
"Okay, a guy's head is chopped off.  He's dead, right?  But his soul isn't.  Our job is to remove that live soul from the dead body." (p. 61)

"'You're here because of a textbook spike in misanthropic tendencies and violent behavior.  The one thing we all have in common."
There it was, spelled right out for her.  An explanation.  Lex's heart leaped so high, she wouldn't have been surprised if it jumped out of her chest and started tap-dancing across the shingles.  After all this time, all the questioning, all the detentions--a concrete answer." (p. 73)

Tasty Rating:  !!

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