Synopsis: Lex, a previous straight A student, is sent to her uncle’s farm house to adjust her newly acquired attitude problem. When she arrives at the town of Croak things doesn’t seem to be what it is. Instead she finds out the true meaning of her uncle’s job, one that he hides from his family.
Review: A couple of years ago a few of my GR friends were talking about this book. So of course I had to pick it up for myself. Not really knowing much about it, I was pleasantly surprised that I enjoyed reading it. I admit there were things that disturbed me about it, but overall it was a fun read. Now if you want a comparison to this book, it almost reminds me of the show “Dead like Me”, except none of these reapers are dead. So if you remember and liked the show, then I suggest you try reading this.
As far as protagonists goes, Lex was pretty interesting. I’m not really sure what to think about her just yet. She’s one of those “grey area” characters that just pass the “good guy” line, but if pushed hard enough, she can go in the deep end. There were time that I found her to be bratty and annoying, but eventually redeemable as the book progresses. The other characters are not any better. They too had their moments of good and bad. The one thing that I found unrealistic are their “bad moods” towards Lex I understand they had an awful childhood, but to actually resent Lex for her family dynamic is dumb. The one character that I actually truly enjoyed is Uncle Mort. He’s the type of uncle that you wish to have. Unfortunately, he’s not much present in the book. Hopefully, my feelings towards the characters, especially Lex, will change in the next book.
My lack of feelings for the characters more than made up for my thoughts on the relationships that are present in the book. I really enjoy the relationship of Cordy and Lex. I understand that their twins and their suppose to have this connection, but it was still nice reading about it. Although, the revelation of Driggs in the end was a bit “stalker-ish”, I still enjoyed his friendship/love interest(?) with Lex. I especially enjoyed Ferguson’s relationship with Driggs. I think their hilarious banter and unique duo is cute. A relationship that I find would not have formed in a regular school environment.
Mystery is an integral part of this book. I feel that the author introduced something that made me question and wonder in almost every chapter. The bad part is, there really isn’t a lot of answers by the end of the book. Yes, the big mystery is solved, but even that didn’t have a conclusion. I really thought that the book would delve deeper into the murders, rather than just a passing mention. I wish Damico at least added bits of information about each crime scene. I think that would have been more interesting. I also think that the whole town itself is a big mystery, and the explanation of Damico is a bit weak. I wish there was more world building on her part. I understand this is not a fantasy novel, but I would have like to know more about the town. Like I said this is the first novel, so maybe we’ll see more of Croak in the second book.
There are things in this book that are not my cup of tea, but for the most part it was highly enjoyable. For some reason I almost feel like this book gives the vibe of Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell, yes totally different genre, but I just felt that they have the same characteristics. Were Fangirl fell flat for me, Croak didn’t give me the same feelings. I actually want to continue with the series just to see what happens to the characters that was introduced in this book.
If you do not want the ending to be revealed, please do not read any further.
Ending: Lex was a straight A student, when midway to highschool she started feeling agressive and angry with everything around her. Not knowing what to do with her, Lex was sent to her uncle’s farm to work off her aggression. Upon meeting Uncle Mort, with his punk style clothing and motorcycle, Lex realized that her uncle wasn’t all that honest with Lex’s father. Uncle Mort then explains to her that he is the ‘Mayor’ of a town called croak that is a portal to the afterlife. The town and the people within it are in charge, out of many in the world, in helping people cross over to the next life. There different jobs within Croak, but most of the teenagers are the reapers, this is because their body and mentality is a lot more able to deal with the deaths they see.
Lex, of course being the protagonist, is different from the other reapers. When she touches a body, she doesn’t just feel a spark on her finger, but rather lightning through her whole body. Being different from the rest of her friends, not only sets her apart, but became a radar to the antagonist Heloise and Norwood, the leader of the Director of the Ether Traffic, in lame term, those in charge so that the reapers don’t reap in the same place or family members. They also have difficulty letting Lex through because she is the niece of Mort, but Damico doesn’t really elaborate as to why that seems taboo.
Now in Damico’s world there is no such thing as heaven or hell, there is only the afterlife. So no matter how good or bad you are, technically, you end up in the same place. This didn’t really sit well with Lex and she was furious of this injustice. Driggs and the others are a lot more willing look past this folly because they believe that the souls needs to be released rather than it be trapped in the body or become specter. Apparently, Lex wasn’t the only person who thought this was an unfair outcome.
While on one of their cases, Driggs found one of the corpse with unusual symptoms. One after the other, he realize that someone has been taking souls that are not meant to be reaped. Eventually, they find out that these corpses have crimes that they have not paid for. He then realizes that one of the grim reapers found the Loopholes. Apparently, there is a ‘manual’ that shows the loopholes of grim reaping. Where they can kill anyone or go anywhere without being detected by the Ether Traffic Control. This then would give them free reign on anyone in the world.
Zara, another reaper, believed that this too was an unfair outcome for those who needs to be punished. Having such a difficult childhood, she didn’t feel that her stepfather or others like him deserved to be in the afterlife. She is the one who found the ‘manual’ that allowed her to proceed with her plans. The one thing that she needed was Lex’s powers. Finding out how to harness Lex’s powers, she kills Cordy, Lex’s twin sister, with Lex’s anger in full capacity, Zara was able to harness the gift. This gift enables Zara to damn the souls of the people that she kills. Meaning, when she touches the souls of the dead, they no longer go to the afterlife, but their soul seizes to exist.
In the end, Zara gives the choice to Lex, to join her or die. Not being able to work with her sister’s killer, Lex escapes and warns her uncle about Zara’s plans. We find out that Cordy is in the afterlife.