Monday, May 21, 2012

To Read Shelf Challenge: Croak by Gina Damico

Croak by Gina Damico 
#132 of 158 on To Read Shelf 

What You Need to Know:  This title is a refreshing break from paranormal romances, but suffers from an overabundance of quirkiness and strange tonal shifts.

Summary:  Lexington (aka Lex) is pissed off.  All the time.  At everybody.  Her incessant brawling has led to numerous near suspensions and her parents have had enough.  She is being sent to her Uncle Mort's farm in upstate New York for the summer.  Far from being the dozy farmer Lex is expecting, Mort is a motorcycle riding mad scientist, with a very strange profession.  You see, Uncle Mort is a Grim, as in reaper, and says that Lex has the potential to be one too.  Lex takes to Killing quickly, but the town of Croak, with it's cobblestone streets, bad death puns and eccentric inhabitants takes more adjustment.  Adding to the stress are the slew of unexplained deaths the Grims are seeing.  Her partner Driggs wants to investigate, but Lex isn't so sure, as the dead are not the best of humanity.

What Worked:  Teenage Grim Reapers is a hell of a concept. and Damico comes very close to pulling it off.   Lex and the other teen Grims are very believable: awkward, annoying and completely stoked to be part of the world of Croak.   It's nice to see a paranormal title that is not focused on a love triangle and where the main characters are reasonably angst free.  

The inevitable romance worked well here too, not being of the love at first sight/destined forever variety.The relationship grew organically, and came across as simultaneously awkward and amazing, as teen relationships are wont to do.     I do have a caveat. (See below)

What Didn't:  The puns.  Good Lord, the puns.  The main drag in Croak is Slain Lane.  The local drink is a Yorrick.  The diner is run by Pandora, the bar by her husband, Corpp.  The butcher's is Dead Meat.  The overabundance of cutesy death references went from clever to twee in no time.

Remember my caveat about the romance?  Well, here it is.  I detest "The I've loved you from afar" trope almost as much as the "I found my soulmate before I graduated high school trope" and it pops up here.

Also, it felt like the author couldn't figure out what book she wanted to write.  Is it a lighthearted look at a death-focused society?  Is it a coming of age novel?  Is it a serious suspense/mystery?  It tries to be all three, and the disparate parts never form a cohesive narrative, leading to some weird tonal shifts, and changes in mood.

Who Would I Give this Book To:  Oddly enough, I think this book as some appeal to both girls and guys.  The cover is killer, and would attract readers.  Fans of quirky humor or someone looking for a break from fallen angels and handsome fairies might enjoy this.

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