Friday, April 6, 2012
Lex Bartleby is a terror. She acts out, attacks people, and has a horrible attitude. No one is immune from her verbal or physical attacks: teachers, classmates, every clique, her own family. Her family is completely fed up with her behavior. Even her twin sister stops defending her. Her parents' last resort solution is to send her to live with her Uncle Mort in upstate New York to work on his farm. Lex doesn't really know why she acts this way and of course she doesn't want to be shipped off to shovel manure or milk cows. When Lex arrives, she finds there is no farm and he lives in a bizarre town called Croak. It turns out he is a Grim Reaper and he is there to recruit her to become one as well. She takes to it quickly, but can't let go of her sense of justice as she watches murderers and criminals walk away time and time again. While she struggles, mysterious deaths pop up with no known cause and completely white eyes. These deaths keep showing up and start to become more frequent. Can Lex follow the rules and keep her Reaper job? How are these mysterious deaths happening?
I picked up Croak on a whim because I thought the plot sounded pretty cool: kind of like Dead Like Me for younger teens. At the outset, I wasn't really impressed. I was annoyed by Lex and her "I hate everyone" attitude that didn't have any reason behind it. I felt incredibly sorry for her parents and her twin sister, but I kept reading, hoping it would improve. After she got to Croak, everything became exponentially better, mostly because after began Reaping, her behavior became tolerable. It took a while for Lex to get used to everything and dispense of her horrible attitude, but once she did, she really belonged and was accepted. I loved the world building of Croak and their inner workings. There are two types of reapers: Killers who release a soul and Cullers who collect the soul. They work in teams and use their scythes to transport to the dying person (where time is frozen) to release and collect their soul. The Junior Reapers are all around Lex's age and all had the same anger and behavior problem that Lex did, but they came from much worse situations. None of them had any families or parents to speak of and Mort stepping in saved many of their lives. The dynamic between such different people was delightful to read. This city's sole purpose is to house Reapers and the people that make everything run smoothly. I loved that all the places and even the restaurant menus had morbid and punny names.
The language really sucked me into the novel and I ended up reading it in a few hours. The majority of the novel was pretty light in tone with a good amount of humor to lighten the morbid themes and plot. The last portion of the novel becomes very dark, sinister, and frankly depressing with some unexpected plot twists and turns. It was a little surprising, but showed that the world of death isn't just fun and games. The ending was very powerful and tragic and left me wanting more.
Through Lex's journey, I really grew to like her and I even enjoyed her budding romance with her partner, Driggs. I can't wait to read more Lex's story and the second book can't come out fast enough for me.
My rating: 4.5/5 fishmuffins